Microsoft Gears Up for a Head On Catfight with Siri

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The world was pretty amazed at the lovely voice of Siri and the personal assistance that it provided to iPhone users. It is safe to say that Siri introduced the concept of virtual personal assistants that are integrated with the phone’s software. This was the closest that we have been able to get to develop a fully functional JARVIS (the completely independent virtual PA from the Ironman series). Google did try to come up with their own virtual assistant, but ended up with a monotonous voice that lacked character and personality, and this is why Siri has become so popular with iPhone users.

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It seems that Microsoft may have its answer to Apple’s personal assistant. The company took a cue from Halo (the highly popular video game) to come up with the name of the virtual assistant that has been named Cortana. The reason – Cortana has been named as the sexiest female character in video game history. Gamers have literally made Cortana the numero UNO girl that they would love to date. Microsoft identified this attachment and cashed in on the opportunity of providing a virtual assistant that everyone would love to have. However, very few know that the original concept for the assistant was based on Nefertiti (the Egyptian princess).

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Cortana was the name given to the Windows phone 8.1 personal assistant app during the development phase. This was just a name assigned to the app for better communication and easy reference. However, the developers had become attached to the name and were relating it to the actual character from the Halo series. They insisted that Microsoft keep Cortana as the official name and so it stayed on.

In terms of personality, Cortana derives its nature and emotions from the character directly. The company even approached the developers of Halo to get their hands on the personality and character elements for Cortana. Every detail is being carefully integrated into the PA so that it is able to engage the user in actual conversations. This is what the company has been banking on. The smart usage of conversational patterns has made Cortana into a lifelike assistant even though it uses predefined conversational statements. This should be the biggest USP for the app.

Cortana has the all the features that are currently being offered with Siri and Google Now. Users can set up reminders, place call, send texts, write notes, get information from the internet and practically manage the Smartphone without moving a muscle. The assistant is shown as two concentric circles which are pretty sexy when combined with the semi-robotic voice that is attractive as people get reminded of the character from Halo.

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Microsoft is even planning on bringing Cortana to the international market by allowing localization for the language support. It is currently working on developing a whole new database for supporting languages and accents. The use of specific accents will be a major leverage for this app as people from China and UK often face difficulties in maintaining relevance with the accent of the language that the virtual PA recognizes. Let’s hope that the Cortana is able to deliver as per the expectations that have been created from all the hype which currently surrounds this new technology.