Cortana could simulate empathy according to recently published patent

What you need to know

  • Cortana could gain the ability to react to human emotions according to a patent.
  • The assistant might also improve its ability to create contextual responses.
  • These features would rely on storing responses and data to look back on as reference points.

Microsoft's AI assistant Cortana could be improving its contextual responses and gaining the ability to react to emotional states according to a recently published patent (via Windows United). The patent was filed in January 2018, but hit PatentScope this week. The patent breaks down that Cortana could gain improvements in contextual responses by remembering previous parts of conversations. This part of the patent isn't new information. In May of this year, our Managing Editor, Daniel Rubino, wrote about how the future of Cortana is contexual. Cortana being able to perform tasks reliant on dozens of previous messages and data points is the future of the assistant.

A feature that could take this further is if the technology in the patent regarding emotion ever rolls out to the public. The patent explains that Cortana could use similar contextual learning to react to the emotional states of users.

The present disclosure provides method and apparatus for providing emotional care in a session between a user and an electronic conversational agent. A first group of images may be received in the session, the first group of images comprising one or more images associated with the user. A user profile of the user may be obtained. A first group of textual descriptions may be generated from the first group of images based at least on emotion information in the user profile. A first memory record may be created based at least on the first group of images and the first group of textual descriptions."

Patents use dry and direct language, so they're generally long documents with extreme amounts of detail that you have to sift through, but the excerpt above is a good summary of potential features. If the feature came out, Cortana could create a user profile that would keep track of user's emotion information.

Cortana has evolved its design on Android and iOS to be more conversational, and Windows 10's version of Cortana is following suit. While companies the size of Microsoft file hundreds of patents that never see the light of day, at least some of the ideas in these patents seem to be on their way.

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Sean Endicott
News Writer and apps editor

Sean Endicott brings nearly a decade of experience covering Microsoft and Windows news to Windows Central. He joined our team in 2017 as an app reviewer and now heads up our day-to-day news coverage. If you have a news tip or an app to review, hit him up at