Cortana is now on Windows Phone

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Microsoft is hard at work pulling the covers off Windows Phone 8.1, and in the process announced their virtual assistant app for the platform. As the leaks have all suggested, her name is Cortana.

Cortana is Microsoft’s voice-activated, natural language assistant. You can ask Cortana for sports scores, schedule appointments, search Bing, and do very nearly all of the things its competitors can do. Microsoft has done some really clever things to make it a little bit better though, and it’s going to make a big difference. For starters, Cortana can be given instructions through text as well as voice, so if you are in a meeting you can write a short sentence instead of navigating your UI and flipping between multiple apps. Cortana is also set up with the highly flexible Quiet Hours features, with “inner circle” settings for people who are allowed to bother you during specific times of the day.

While Microsoft did explain that Cortana would be in Beta for a little while, perhaps the most disappointing part of the presentation was how little the machine responses actually sounded like Cortana when using it. The response to a sports question during the presentation sounded mechanical, with a deeper voice than what is usually associated with Cortana. This is likely to be fixed as the system improves, but it was a noticeable difference as they navigated the app. They did manage to toss in one final I reference though, which is something every geek around will try at least once when they are finally able to use Cortana for themselves.

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