Cortana

A few weeks ago, we reported that some modifications to Cortana were occurring for a select few people running the Windows Phone 8.1 Preview for Developers. By the time we posted an article the changes had rolled back, signaling that Microsoft was testing the waters with the refresh to their new personal assistant.

Since around midnight last night, a few users in our forums are once again seeing the changes, including the screenshots posted below. In addition, a few tips have rolled in from people noticing the new improvements. Unfortunately, only one of the writers on the Windows Phone Central staff have the updates yet, so it's not clear if this is a slow rollout, testing or something else.

Cortana new

The changes to Cortana reportedly include all or a few of the following:

  • Asking "What is my name?" and having Cortana speak it back
  • Importing of your Stock watch list from Bing Finance
  • New animations on the Live Tile, including weather icons
  • Cortana will verbally respond to select inquiries (not just chitchat)
  • Modified layout of news, including dividers between sections and a smaller font
  • New quiz option at the bottom of today view to let Cortana learn a bit more about your personal interests/habits.
  • New "Give Cortana Feedback" link at the bottom of Cortana's today view.

Microsoft can dynamically update Cortana because the pages generated are in HTML5, meaning there is no need for a software update on the phone. Microsoft creates the update on the servers, and pushes them to users when demanded. Some of those enhancements include increased usage of Jen Taylor – the original voice of Cortana in the Halo gaming franchises – when asking questions and engaging her for personal information.

Microsoft recently indicated that Cortana would be updated twice a month in an effort to bring new features and improvements to users on a regular basis.

Like yourselves, we'll be eagerly checking our phones all day to see if we notice any modifications. Sound off in comments if you have them or if you have observed any other changes that we have not noted in the above list.

Source: Windows Phone Central forums; Also, thanks to SONNY, Rahul, and Quoc-Thy N, for additional information; images courtesy of Georgi Ivanov3