It is Friday, and as we all eagerly wait for the Xbox Music app update (fingers crossed), we figured it is time for our weekly poll.
This week's poll is a hot topic: Cortana and local accents.
Earlier this week, Microsoft announced that Cortana is heading to China and the UK as 'betas.' This expansion means they work, but they are missing some features too, which is not controversial. What is controversial is the choice for voicing.
Microsoft is trying to do the right thing. They want to create a personal assistant that fits in with one's culture and country. Part of that is making her accent localized for the relevant country or territory. After all, GPS apps always come with 'voices' to choose from as clearly people want to hear someone that sounds like them. The Cortana team even explains:
"The purpose of this philosophy is to deliver on our customer promise to provide the most personal assistant that scales to different languages and cultures."
Alternatively, maybe not.
The problem is Jen Taylor, the original voice behind Cortana from the video game Halo. She is graciously giving her voice to the Windows Phone Cortana but only for those in the US.
In the UK, they are getting another voice actor but with a "British accent." I used quotes for a reason. There is no British accent. Broadly speaking, there are English, Welsh, and Scottish accents, and even those are broken down further into regions. Having studied sociolinguistics and working with a few Brits, I can say they very much pride themselves on their accents, which reflect the areas they are from. It's a complicated fair, and not isolated to the UK. (Seriously, getting Rich Edmonds, Jay Bennett, Alex Dobie and Richard Devine in a room together? As an American, hilarious.)
Interestingly, the best way to unite those in the UK over language may be to use Jen Taylor. It is not hard to sense the blowback, at least in comments here on this site. This controversy does raise the question: Is this Halo/Jen Taylor fanboyism rearing its head or is Microsoft truly making a mistake here? By that I mean, once people hear UK Cortana, do you think this will all blow over?
The solution may be an obvious one, one that I think most of you are going to opt for: give users a choice between the two. As I do not work on Cortana, I have no idea what involves creating such a scenario, though I presume there would be some issues to work out (read: not that easy).
Either way, let us know by taking the poll. The problem with this referendum, of course, is that many non-UK people are going to vote on it, swaying the results. So for you non-Brits out there, think of the bigger picture and what this may mean to your country or region going forward.
Want to vote but are using our app? Just swipe over and use the 'Show in browser' option and vote there (or use m.wpcentral.com)!