Cortana looks like it will do more than just listen to what you have to say

New leaked screenshot suggests "Cortana" is not just limited to voice interactions

It's no secret that Microsoft has been working on a voice-recognition-based assistant to rival Apple's Siri and Google Now that will be included in Windows Phone 8.1 (aka, Blue). What is somewhat surprising, according to a newly leaked screenshot,  is that the assistant, which goes by the moniker "Cortana," does not appear to be limited simply to voice interactions.

Windows Phone Central first revealed the existence of 'Cortana' as a Siri competitor yesterday, though most major new outlets overlooked it.

A newly-leaked screenshot shows that there is more to Cortana than we first thought

ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley wrote a detailed article today going into depth about Cortana. In it she details what you can expect in the upcoming digital assistant on your phone. The service will be powered by a concoction of services within in Microsoft. It will be part “Satori” knowledge repository powered by Bing, part Tellme, and other services within Microsoft to create your digital Cortana.

Mary Jo Foley goes on to explain that Cortana is just the beginning of a makeover to the entire “shell”. That shell consists of the core services and experiences that will be powering the next generation of Microsoft’s products from Windows Phone, to Windows 8, to Xbox One. But Cortana is going to be core to that shell and she’ll follow you wherever you go in the Microsoft ecosystem.

But don’t think for a moment that the shell is just the Metro interface you see in front of you when using Microsoft’s products. Instead here’s Steve Ballmer explaining it:

“Our UI will be deeply personalized, based on the advanced, almost magical, intelligence in our cloud that learns more and more over time about people and the world. Our shell will natively support all of our essential services, and will be great at responding seamlessly to what people ask for, and even anticipating what they need before they ask for it.”

We might just get our first glimpse of Cortana in early 2014 when Windows Phone 8.1 launches. Until then, the leaks will keep coming. Speaking of leaks...

Later, the Verge's Tom Warren tweeted out a picture showing the Cortana settings page, which included some non-voice related options. The first is the ability to add weather alerts to your alarms. It's a handy way to prepare for you day first thing in the morning.

Next is the option to sync your calendar at a certain time every night. Presumably, this is for non-Exchange calendars.

And lastly, the screenshot shows the option to prompt you to add your spouse or significant other to your start screen. This option could be related to Facebook or other social media outlets that allow users to fill out such personal information.

Also of note in the screenshot is a notifications section, which will likely be part of the Notification Center that we caught a glimpse of yesterday, along with multi-tile select.

Cortana first turned up by name on a Nokia Lumia 920 that purchased on eBay and was running Blue. It was initially thought that it would just be a voice-controlled personal assistant, much like Siri, but it appears that it will be much more than that, deeply embedded into the core of Windows Phone.

So why hasn’t Windows Phone had a personal assistant like Siri or Google Now yet? Mostly because Microsoft is waiting to do something revolutionary, instead of evolutionary in that space. From what we’ve seen of Cortana, she is very much going to be revolutionary.

From what we've seen and know at Windows Phone Central. Cortana is going to be revolutionary. Bing search on Windows Phone won't be the same as it's been. Instead, hitting the hardware Search key will bring up Cortana, from there you can automatically begin speaking or type your request. But Cortana won't be isolated to the hardware key, she'll be throughout the entire Windows Phone 8.1 operating system. Give her the option and she'll be able to read your text messages to help you add calendar reminders and more (there will be limitations, as the not everything could be acted on by the OS).

Cortana will leave popular Siri in the dust. We have already seen what Microsoft has done with voice functionality on Xbox and Kinect, and what they do with Windows Phone will be incredible.

Clarification: We should also note that those screenshots posted of 'Cortana' are from the zApp for internal testing. The actual UI for end-users will not look like that and is currently in flux for final layout.

Source: ZDNet, the Verge


Reader comments

New leaked screenshot suggests "Cortana" is not just limited to voice interactions



Dear Microsoft, I don't care how much you have to pay Jen Taylor... but she absolutely needs to be the voice of the digital assistant. And you absolutely need to keep the name as Cortana. If not for me, think of the children. (But seriously, do it for me)

Screw this..... Yo Microsoft you keep talking about Unifiing Platforms Start HERE. 
Give us Jen "Cortana" on all our Devices.  My Xbox One and Surafce Pro need her too.

Windows Blue coming soon will be Microsoft's step at unifying the platforms... They also said: "Cortana is going to be core to that shell and she’ll follow you wherever you go in the Microsoft ecosystem." They weren't talking about your phone... they were talking about all the services... So that would mean that everything Microsoft will be implementing Cortana into every service at some point in time... I am really excited to see how Cortana turns out at that point!

I have never played Halo, but this made me look cortana up, and I agree - the name has to stay, and the voice :D 

The will stay even if Microsoft changes it. It will be like Metro. It doesn't matter that Microsoft had to change it. We still use it.

are they really going to use her or just the name? 
hopefully theyll add a guy and be another xbox character. 

Absolutely! To us huge Halo fans, it would be so much better than say SkyNet and the bazillion references from The Terminator universe.

+100 .. One of the best things Microsoft has done recently. Using xbox/halo characters is just awesome. Hope and pray they continue with this name and don't come up wth something like "Microsoft personal assistant version 1" :)

I agree! Only MS can come up with such lame names as "Microsoft Windows Phone 8.1 Blue with Integrated Personal Cloud Assisted Technologies XP - Cortana Version 1.0"

Yea but in all fairness Jen has a good voice.... she was picked out to be an AI after all... which is now the worlds most famous video game protaganists personal assistent... plus every halo fan worth anything would buy a phone just to have even if they keep using their iPhone so yes i would call it a good idea haha....

that would be so cool, but I fear it would be at least 2050 until we see that adopted in the consumer space, if not later;

Where's the petition because I'm about to get everyone I know plus the kids (200+) at my work to sign it just to make it happen. Me getting WP8 is already worth it, but this would just amazing @_@

Completely agree!
But I *hope* this isn't just a reaction to Siri and Google Now. I hope microsoft does something with it (IIRC, they said they wouldn't add a Virtual assistant until they could do something new and amazing with it). Hopefully what Motorola did with the Moto X showed them what Voice actions can do (Disclaimer: I'm a fan of iOS, Android, AND Windows Phone. I like ALL mobile platforms, and dislike being stuck in a single platform).

I'll with you bro, MS should used Master Chief as the alternative male voice and that would be very awesome. I have skinned my Surface with Master Chief's picture and it's been drawing attention wherever I go.

Really? If you wanted a male AI on your phone I would think 343 Guilty Spark would be the perfect voice. But as for the female it should definitely be called Cortana and it should definitely be Jen Taylor's voice only. No halo fan would accept anyone else and hopefully Microsoft knows this. 

Ok man repost that near the top.... that's a great idea... I love master chief but 343 would be EPIC as a male voice

I just told my sons about Cortana and they about shit themselves. "Everyone knows Cortana, that is going to be awesome!" I couldn't agree more. Definitely need her voice for it to work.

If one of the total morons that populate Microsoft's marketing decides to change this name I hope we learn who he was so we can lynch him. Cortana - the best name for voice assistant on MS platform.

I really hope they stick with Cortana. It's already a damn hit before it's even been showcased!
Do it MS.

You would think Microsoft would keep it "Cortana." I could see them integrating it into xbox and all their services under the one name.
Plus it would make all the Microsoft fanboys happy. (pft like they care about that...)

Right thats what i really like about this idea! cause in halo, she really is everywhere in those systems!

I'm with you 920% Sam!
Cortana is such a great branding to go with.  Granted, I played Halo and loved what the Cortana character added to the storyline and the humorous comments as you played the game.  And yes, it totally helps that Cortana is an AI construct that happens to look totally bodacious :)
I am LOVE LOVE LOVING this new info.  Cortana looks to have the potential to school both Siri and Google Now.  And that's a good thing, because dispite the gimmicky bits of Siri, she can do some useful things.  And Google Now is quite clever in it's own right.  I give props when they are due.   Having Cortana be so deeply embedded and be multi-platform is killer!
The multi-device angle is very key.  I can't tell you how happy my wife was when her aging Lumia 900 automatically pulled down photo albums from her SkyDrive, including our wedding pics.

You know -Majel Barrett - the voice of the computer on Star Trek - The Next Gen wouldn't be bad either.  Not as sexy, but just as geeky.

Somebody needs to get a petition going on this. It might be the most amazing thing technology has ever done for us!

"Our UI will be deeply personalized, based on the advanced, almost magical, intelligence in our cloud that learns more and more over time about people and the world. Our shell will natively support all of our essential services, and will be great at responding seamlessly to what people ask for, and even anticipating what they need before they ask for it."
So Windows Phone is getting a Smart AI? Hopefully it doesn't go rogue and acquire a God Complex after too many years of use.

I'm going to have to go see how she sounds. (Only XBOX owner who has never played Halo)  From the picture she makes me think of how Viki from iRobot would look.
I'd be up for voice options though.  I'd gladly take Zordon from Power Rangers. ;) 

this is what i am hoping for. all the time i was reading this article i was afraid that i could read sth like 'cortana is just a codename'...

^^^ This! Also, because we live in the future, it'd be nice if a small hologram of a naked woman come project out of my Lumia 920 so she can pretend to be Bing-ing the answers to things on a laptop.

Hell even I want make a contribution if that is possible!! Cortana's voice on all my MS devices... Can this be wet dream possibly coming true? Microsoft, make this happen!!

Actually even better, KI guy( since ms owns KI)...*ordering food* "what should I get" "ULTTTTTRRRRAAAAAAAA CCCCCCCOOOOOOMMMMMMMBBBBBBOOOOO"

Nice! Having Cortana with me will be awesome! Cortana is just as much Halo as Master Chief is. I don't think Roland has that status, or will.

@Vistaus You really, really need to stop pretending you know anything about this business. Because I assure you, you don't and your comment clearly reveals this fact.

These leaks are not done on purpose, I know because I know how we get the information. You don't. So just go back to reading the articles.

I agree with your comment to a certain extent Daniel. There are controlled leaks that are done specifically for hype and marketing. A perfect example: look at the EOS/1020 leaks back in June.

First of all: that first sentence was a bit harsh.
Second of all: wow, you don't seem to have any sense of humor. I was just making a joke. But xconomicron is also right.

Probably because your original post kind of suggests that the WPCentral writers lack the intelligence to know what is going on in an industry that they follow for a living.  If you were making a joke, you forgot the smiley face.
I have no doubt that a small number of leaks are actually intentional publicity stunts.  However, in most cases leaks show off the product in an unpolished state or in a somewhat unflattering way.  They also show off things that are experimental and may not make it into the final product.  Finally, they give away key strategy and inovation details to competitors long before the product will be available in the market.  MS Marketing department jokes aside, it's hard to believe that any company would do that to themselves.
I would be more inclined to believe a leak was fake if it came out 2 days before the official launch and showed the product in a perfect state.

Wow. First quite a few people on the internet tell me that I should drop those smileys in jokes because it makes me look like a child and now that I forced myself to dislike smileys I should use smileys again? Damn, what has become of this world where you can't even tell a joke without a smiley? Are you like that in real-life, always a big smile on your face when you tell a joke?

All in all I'm gonna drop this. Apparently, I need to decide on a site-to-site basis when or when not to use a smiley in a joke.

Just do whatever you like and don't listen to people. Are you gonna rob somebody if someone tells you to? Its hard to sense the tone of context so you try to phrase it so readers know you're joking. Or else nobody knows you're joking and just being an ass.

Wow, don't take it personal.  But at the same time I enjoy seeing the feisty Dan Rubino.  You show pasion for your craft and that makes people keep reading.  

Or danish? Or will we at least get the option to speak English to her?.. Tired of MS locking down all the good features for people that aren't natively speaking English.. Most Scandinavians speak both English and the local language equally well.. So let us use the features instead of taking the decisions for us! :)

They should focus on 3rd party software. Their own software is already good (sometimes meh), but 3rd party software is what's keeping people away from Windows Phone. If I can get all my games, and all my apps, for 1/2 of the price or less than anything else, why wouldn't I go with that (it being Windows Phone).

This is important too. Windows Phone will benefit with an answer for Siri and Google Now. Besides, Microsoft is a large company. The engineers working on this will nit distract from other non-engineer, business types who negotiate with other companies.

Microsoft needs more than just "me too". They need killer differentiators for people to switch and this might be one of them. My biggest fear is that if it is amazing, that MS will port it out and hand it over to Android and iPhone users.

We can dream... It took almost 2 years for a lot of the WP7 hyped features to spread anywhere else. Even now they don't work properly i.e. Bing search, vision translate, barcode scanning (only QR & MS tags allowed). "Tell Me" is a frustrating experience too - I hope the voice recognition is vastly improved...

Note: "concoction" is a wonderful word - should use it more.
I'm really excited about this news, looking forward to what MS has in store here.

The bummer about that one is getting tangled up with a Disney License to use "Jarvis". Would still be really cool!

And, as per Microsoft's standard, this will be completely useless outside the US. In Denmark we have neither Siri nor Google Voice. And that goes for most of Europe. Microsoft has huge oppotunities to leapfrog the competition by recognizing that there is a world outside the US. But, given their track record, that is unlikely to happen...

I have been using TellMe and Kinect since they were first released and enjoy them, bit this news actually made giddy. (personal embarrassment) With moderate background noise TellMe is about 95% for me, I use it daily in all kind of ways. And my Kinect is in the higher 90's, I have not picked up a controller to navigate the dashboard or a video in quite sometime. Bringing all that function and adding personality, the idea just makes me happy, it is what my 10y.o. Sci-fi loving self dreamed we would have by now.

Voice options on windows phone are already better than others already. This is the only phone I've had where it will read my messages and reply back without even touching anything. Brilliant in the car

No offence but this article really needs an editor. This website's writing seems to be heading towards wmpoweruser's standards, and believe me that is not a complement.

"Chief, there's traffic up ahead. According to past traffic patterns it should clear up in an hour. May I suggest that you have lunch now instead of waiting an hour?"
"Sounds good Cortana. I could use a steak."
"Okay Chief, for steak we'll need to get off at the next exit. On my mark.... ... .. NOW!"

Wonder if it will have the ability to auto reply to sms & also call out the incoming callers persons name?

You'll have to wait for the Windows(Phone) 9 for fully functionality, though...even if the cloud is involved and that is totally separeted from the client (or terminal).
to put it in more positive way of thinking:
you will definately have Cortana 2.0
but it also needs a user interface revamp...
so it looks like you will get several version of it along the years - each better than the previous
Thre restricted "stupid" versions will evolve to higly sophisticated location and action aware AI
towards a Real Cortana
Only the Clouds is the limit! :-)

Ha! So parsing your sentence there is a possiblity that one may have go for new hardware phone coz Windows phone 8 may not be upgradable to Windows Phone 9.

The reasons for WP7 <> WP8 were many, but lets concentrate on this one:
The Core changed!
They dumped the Core and replaced it with a more advanced one
One that is compatible with RT, desktop and even Xbox One
From Windows CE to real NT kernel Vista-series or NT 6.x
The Windows 9 is NT 6.3
so there is no real reason why it wouldn't work on any WP 8.x device...
but I don't know for sure what HW you will need...
you will always buy a new phone each year anyway, right
and it's 2015 earliest when the Windows(Phone) 9 arrives
better just
(to support the hard working Nokia/MS engineers in Finland: Espoo. Oulu, Salo, Tampere)
​buy the SD800 4-core / 2GB RAM model now:
Lumia 1520
and one more time:
it's the Mainframe behind it all or Cloud Services if you wish
(you still may need some graphics power to have a nice interface on your handset)
but yet again:
I'm not in charge of the "Cortana" project, nor do I know the details
and the future may change
"Difficult to see. Always in motion is the future."

Thats exactly what I will be doing. Only wish there will be a trade in program for my 920 in lieu of 1520

This sounds exciting but what I wanna know is, WHEN ARE YOU GONNA FIX YOUR CRAPPY ASS MUSIC APP?

in case you are being sarcastic HAHA and if not siri is a personalized voice assistant used on the iphone ipad and other things, cortana is a fictional character from the videogame series halo and the name of the voice assistant that is im guessing going to be much more advanced than siri, that microsoft is working on. :D

"Windows Phone Central first revealed the existence of 'Cortana' as a Siri competitor yesterday, though most major new outlets overlooked it."
This is because you guys didn't make any kind of fuss over it in the article.  I mine through your site multiple times every day and even I overlooked it.  To me this is the biggest news yet on Windows Phone 8.1.  Very exciting.

You couldn't have said it better, Wmpoweruser casually mention it in one of their articles yesterday acknowledging WPCentral as the source. I quickly rush to WPCental very excited to get the details here but after scanning through all the articles I only found disappointment as I couldn't see this information in any of the News items. This to me is the best news for our community in recent times and should be highlighted with red caps.

And plus they put "major NEW outlets" lol prolly shoulda been "news".  I can't imagine how annoying it is for WPcentral to have all these nerds criticizing their every move.  That being said...I'm done now.  And for the record, I do actually like this website alot.

Boom! Finally something to be excited about, i mean seriously there should be a moment and it should be sooner that wp aligns (or better) itself with other OSs software featurewise!
Hope it (she) understands my pronounciation :P

While this would be awesome, forgive me if I sense a huge let down by MS. Either it won't come to fruition as we hope it will, or it will be delayed, delayed, and then poof, shelved and forgotten.
MS has often proposed cool things they're working on, and often it leads no where.

Give Cortana with Taylor's voice and I don't give a damn If NSA will spy on me or not. I will still cry with emotion and happiness.

I've never been a big Halo fan, but it would be incredibly awesome, on so many levels, if Microsoft stuck with Cortana for the assistant.