It’s been over 2 years since Apple introduced the virtual assistant “Siri” to their range of iPhones and iOS devices and we’ve all got pretty comfortable having her in our lives. I mostly use Siri while I’m driving (via a handsfree device – of course), to help me call friends, play a song I like – simple stuff like that.
Siri, much like Google’s very own virtual assistant, “Google Now”, does her job only when we need her, then fades back into the hardware, awaiting our next call of “Siri, where’s the nearest Hungry Jacks” – at 2am on a Saturday morning, when I just can’t seem to type that properly into my search browser.
Well, I’m here to tell Siri that there’s a new girl in town – she’s blue, a bit of a minx and she’s here to find out everything about you.
Meet Cortana, the new virtual assistant introduced in the recent Windows Phone 8.1 update. Cortana is modelled on the popular character from the ‘Halo’ video game series.
While Cortana is just the voice of the Windows Phone notification centre, she is essentially a mash up of the best (and proven) features of the Android & iOS operating systems – she does have something different about her.
To start with, Microsoft spent some serious time speaking to actual real life personal assistants to find the key elements they found helped them do their job better. They all spoke of how they kept a notebook to track the real world interests of their clients. Cortana also keeps a notebook. She monitors your activity – how you use the phone, where you travel (based on GPS coordinates), who you call most often, what you say when you text them, what you search for online. She is a fully fledged, black belt ninja spy – living inside your phone.
When you ask Cortana to: “Remind me to tell my sister I love her next time we are on the phone”, Cortana will send you that reminder next time you are mid phone call with your sibling. No need to tell Cortana who your sister actually is in your contact’s list – she’ll figure it out herself.
While you may think it’s a little creepy that a tiny voice in your phone will get to know you so well, early reviews show most people find it very useful and don’t mind at all. You can also scroll through Cortana’s notebook to see what notes she is keeping on you and edit them as you see fit. This is very different to Siri, who likes to keep her notes on you very private.
Some other ways Cortana can assist you?
“Cortana, please remind me to pick up some flowers next time I am at Westfield Chermside”
Cortana will use GPS to track when you are next at the shopping centre you’ve chosen and will send you a text reminder to pick up the items.
If you have an appointment in your phone, Cortana will also calculate what the traffic is like between your current location and the address of the appointment and will warn you if you need to take an alternate route.
So, long story short, Cortana is pro-active in a way that Siri and Google Now just aren’t. Will this help swing consumers away from Android and iPhone and help boost sales for Windows Phones? That remains to be seen, but take a look at the below video for some more insights into the mind of Cortana.
Matty Newton is the Social Media Specialist at BCM