Microsoft's Cortana: rival to Apple's Siri named after fictional AI
The next-generation of 'intelligent personal assistants' will step even closer to sci-fi's vision of artificial intelligent, but will this be in name only?
Microsoft are reportedly building their own voice-activated personal assistant for smartphones to compete with Apple’s Siri. The twist? They’re naming it after Cortana: a holographic artificial intelligence that appears in the popular Halo series of games.
Rumours of Cortana’s existence first surfaced in June thanks to leaked screenshots of a Lumia Windows Phone, but sources familiar with the matter have spoken to tech website ZDNet, confirming that the technology will be “more than just an app” and will be “core to the makeover of the entire [operating system]”.
Microsoft has been hinting at a reconfiguration of Windows to a more voice-centric interface for months now. In Steve Ballmer’s memo to staff in July regarding the company’s big reorganisation the CEO made reference to “a family of devices powered by a service-enabled shell”.
In plainer language, this means Microsoft’s core-services (search, email, etc) will be overlaid by a common user interface. Ballmer goes on to describe this system as “deeply personalized, based on the advanced, almost magical, intelligence in our cloud that learns more and more over time about people and the world.”
As well as making clear nods towards an artificial intelligence-style system, this also sounds extremely similar to Google Now: the search-giant’s comprehensive ‘intelligent personal assistant’ that answers questions via voice-commands and offers recommendations based on what it knows about your habits.
As with all these systems, the more information you give it, the better it will assist you. Plug your diary into the system and it'll notify you about upcoming meetings; let the system know where you live and where you go to work and it'll give you traffic recommendations for your daily commute.
However, it's joining up all these dots that really makes any assistant 'intelligent'. Microsoft handles this process with ‘Satori’ – a system embedded into the Bing search engine that connects information to create a richer, more human database of knowledge.
Although Cortana and Google Now promise to apply these contextually aware databases to your daily life they were first tested in search engines. Satori is the equivalent of Google’s Knowledge Graph, stringing the ‘nouns’ of search together (the people, the places, the objects) to deliver more meaningful responses to your search queries.
Microsoft says Satori will “broker information among our services to bring them together on our devices in ways that will enable richer and deeper app experience".
In other words, Microsoft wants to bring to life the sci-fi dream of a computer that functions as a personal assistant; answering questions and commands in a manner that is intuitive and actually helpful.
With this in mind, naming the system after a fictional AI makes perfect sense, but it's also kind of sneaky. By identifying their future assistant with a fictional character beloved by millions of gamers (the Halo series has sold more than 50m copies worldwide) Microsoft are tapping into a pre-fabricated set of positive associations for the brand. However, this might be a double-edged sword. If they want to meet the expectations raised by the name Cortana, Microsoft are going to have to make science fiction a reality.
Life & Style blogs
What marriage would look like if we actually followed the Bible
iPhone 6s photos leak shows new phone will be thicker than iPhone 6, could make cases defunct
Women really are more attracted to men who make them laugh, study finds
Worrying about your weight makes you more likely to pile on the pounds, researchers claim
What do the emojis on Snapchat mean?
Britain to take more refugees as Cameron bows to pressure after more than 250,000 back our campaign
Senior British politicians tell David Cameron: When dead children are being washed up on beaches – it's time to act
Jeremy Corbyn calls Osama bin Laden's killing a 'tragedy' - but was it taken out of context?
If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
If you're not already angry about the refugee crisis, here's a history lesson to remind you why you really should be
Make your voice heard: Sign The Independent's petition to welcome refugees
- 1 Refugee crisis: Sweden the only European country with a majority favourable towards non-EU immigration
- 2 'Heartbreaking' Syria orphan photo wasn't taken in Syria and not of orphan
- 3 Malnourished two-year-old found being breastfed by dog in Chile
- 4 Bob Geldof offers to take four refugee families into his home 'immediately' as he condemns humanitarian crisis as a ‘f**king disgrace'
- 5 YouTube video shows woman verbally abusing takeaway staff 'because they used green peppers'
iJobs Gadgets & Tech
£25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The IT Support Engineer is needed to ass...
£22000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...
£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A great opportunity to join a p...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Do you get a buzz from thinking up new ideas a...