Cortana Expanding Search Horizons
Microsoft have raced ahead of Google in the competition to realize an artificially intelligent program that communicates with its customers and responds to their spoken questions effectively. The updated version of Cortana, along with Microsoft’s holographic goggles which goes by the name of “Hololens”, took the industry by storm at the Windows 10 conference last week.
Bing is the search engine at the heart of Cortana, providing the information base that Cortana itself uses. It then communicates via various different technologies including natural language comprehension and speech recognition. It is part of the new era of the search engine, alongside Google Now for Android and Siri on the iPhone.
Cortana was first revealed on Windows Phone in 2014, but last week marked the point at which Microsoft attempted to bring the app to the desktop. Despite the rejection from those at Microsoft that Cortana would make Bing superfluous, what Cortana does offer is a liberated search experience for users. With Cortana’s attentiveness to the voice of users and its response to the wake-up call “Hey Cortana”, its efficiency compared to the conventional search-engine box is there for all to witness.
Search engineer Ryan Gavin at Microsoft commented: “We’re making a long-term bet on richer interactivity and more natural interactions. We’re creating new user paradigms and bringing search into the context of what you’re already doing.”
The list of available tools on Cortana is undoubtedly impressive. Though voice commands will steal the headlines, Cortana offers a text search box for those looking to be more discreet, as well as deep file search and assimilation with a new web browser called Project Spartan.
The latter tool means that those users of Cortana can get immediate access to maps and directions to business events whilst also reading customer reviews and ratings for potential business lunches that demand top-notch food!
Of equal note is the Notebook tool that has received a lot of praise. It is essentially a newsfeed based on the customer’s interests, information that has been diligently collected by Cortana. This includes currents affairs and weather, as well as stories related to an industry you may have been searching recently- this is likely to be useful to those wanting to stay updated with the latest headlines concerning their chosen career.
Further to this, Notebook can give you alerts from your email and calendar, in a similar way that Google Now does on the android. However, Cortana offers an improvement compared to Google Now as you are given more control over what it knows and stores about you. If you are overcome by technological paranoia you can simply switch off the operation that tracks email and web searches.
In a presentation given by Microsoft executive Joe Belfiore, further highlights were made of Cortana’s capacity. This included commanding the software to get hold of PowerPoint documents, find photos that were taken at a specific month and get an answer as to whether it was necessary to wear a coat.
In reference to the new and improved Cortana, chief executive of Microsoft, Satya Nadella, said: We are building service everywhere, but when it comes to Windows we are not building apps, we are harmonizing experiences.”
Microsoft declared its intention to offer the upgrade to Cortana free of charge for all devices which were using Windows Phone, Windows 7 and Windows 8. This is an alteration from Microsoft original policy that charged its customers for their major updates, a strategy that was blamed by many for the slow take off of Windows 8.
The expert Frank Gillett from the Forrester consultancy commented: “Windows 10 is in effect a huge invitation to software developers to write exciting, power applications that will draw consumers. My hunch is that they can succeed in getting a new generation of PC and tablet applications. The challenge is getting people interested in its phones.”
We look forward to Google’s response in this never-ending arms race between the two tech giants.
How much has Cortana evolved since her announcement? check our previous coverage on Cortana Here