Microsoft is working a digital voice assistant much like Apple’s Siri personal assistant for Windows Phone 8 Blue.
According to sources who talked exclusive with ZDNet, Microsoft is working on a rival for Apple’s Siri and Google’s Google Now for a launch in the next major version of Windows Phone, Windows Phone and possibly other products inside the company.
Codenamed Cortana, named after the artificial intelligence sidekick to Masterchief featured in the company’s Halo game franchise, the final version of the service shipping to users will be able to interpret voice commands and interact with users directly. The report from ZDNet also indicated that the application and service combination will also be able to learn about its environment and adapt to the needs of its users.
Allegedly, Cortana isn’t actually a completely new product, but a combination of the work that has gone on inside specific departments inside Microsoft for years. That includes the computational and social search research being conducted by Microsoft’s Bing Team, and the years of experience the company gained when it acquired the speech company TellMe a few years ago. It’s actually TellMe that powers the voice automation and Bing search functionality in the current versions of Windows Phone.
While releasing some sort of voice automated assistant would certainly help bolster the feature-set of Microsoft’s slowly growing Windows Phone operating system, it’s use case could go far beyond that of a voice-based phone intelligence, it’s ZDNet’s understanding that Microsoft will include the Cortana project in other products, like it’s Xbox One gaming console.
That’s telling since articles written about the console’s Kinect enabled features already indicated that the Xbox One can find users inside of a given space and ask questions. While it isn’t clear if the functionality has an audible voice yet, it might be the next logical step in the company’s quest to make its devices both easier to use and future proof.
Unfortunately, users will have to wait a long time to find out. If rumors are correct, users shouldn’t expect Windows Phone 8.1 to debut until sometime early next year, and Microsoft hasn’t alluded to any audible voice assistant coming to Xbox One users this fall either.
Apple first debuted Siri as part of the line-up of new features in the iPhone 4S, since then the company has continuously upgraded the assistants functionality. This summer, the company announced that future versions of Siri would be powered by Microsoft’s Bing.