First images and video of voice-activated 'Hey Cortana' revealed

As Microsoft rolls out the Lumia Denim update, one feature those with newer Lumias are looking forward to is 'Hey Cortana'. Based on passive-voice activated technology similar to the Kinect, the forthcoming feature lets users call up Cortana by merely using their voice. The feature works even when the Lumia is in standby with the display off.

The images and accompanying video, shown below, come from the site MSFTPlace who picked up the Lumia Denim update on their Lumia 1520. As they note in their article, Hey Cortana is not yet available in Spanish, so they needed to change to English in order to enable the feature.

In the posted screenshots, the tutorial for Hey Cortana informs the user of how to set up the feature. The individual is instructed to be in a quiet room to train the app to recognize their voice. Once done so, Cortana can be called upon when the device is in standby.

Google already has a similar feature on the Moto X series, but this is Microsoft's first attempt at bringing it to their Lumia line (it is not clear if the HTC One will get it as well). Currently, only the Lumia 930 (Lumia Icon) and Lumia 1520 are known to be able to use 'Hey Cortana' due to their use of the 800-series Snapdragon.

Source: MSFTPlace; Thanks, Gabriel, for the tip!

Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been here covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics and ran the projectors at movie theaters, which has done absolutely nothing for his career.

  • Nice
  • Yeah, but I mean... Big deal, I already have it...
  • We need more for the high end people say whatever 1520 has 520 has(software)...that's why people don't go for expensive wp phones...that has to change high end section needs exclusive features...starting with "Hey Cortana"
  • Same would have been the story for Apple had they made more than 1 phone..!!
  • That lead picture kinda sounds like Cortana is trying to seduce you lol
  • She doesn't even wake up when I keep talking like a lunatic "Hey Cortana" - phone doesn't just wake up!
  • Did you even get the Lumia Denim update? I have yet to get it in the states yet on my 1520.
  • Yeah flashed DE ROM. Got it as an OTA. Took 40 mins total.
  • Can you please be more elaborate?
  • Which region?
  • How do you flash your mobile thanks
  • You have to go into settings, scroll to the bottom and train it!
  • Samantha from HER is actually Cortana
  • Samantha's gotta be hotter than Cortana!!
  • Damn Scarlett Johansson.
  • Awesome! Hey Cortana!
  • Too bad it is only available for a few high end phones, sucks for the rest of us; way to to go Microsoft. :-\
  • This is like complaining that the Lumia 530 doesn't get 4K video support. There is a reason, after all, that people pay more for higher-end phones ;)
  • What about 1020, it is not the cheapest phone
  • It's two years old, though.
  • doesnt matter how cheao it is, if the hardware doesnt support it, then the hardware doesnt support it.. jesus.
  • The Snapdragon 800 chip has a special Digital Signal Processor that allows for features like Hey Cortana. The 1020 could get the feature but most people would disable it because of the massive battery drain it will cause. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Years back even NL 910 was a costly affair..!!
  • I always had a doubt though.
    When Denim was announced, the Conversations page stated that "Hey Cortana!" uses SensorCore. So maybe other SensorCore phones will get it eventually?
  • What is sensor core anyway technically?
  • Nokia's API for device sensors implemented in their Lumia line. It allows a developer to do specific functions with three sensors while using minimal battery power. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Nadeem which country are you from?
  • I have 1520 and the GF just moved from iPhone to 830 (only choice for her as 1520 is to big). It is real shame that the only high-end phones available in the USA via carriers is the 1520 and ICON. Microsoft is doing a poor job of managing launches in the USA. :-\
  • In USA..?? Has the rest of the world got like a 1030 or a 1530..!!
  • I agree, it is like complainnig about that... to an extent. Because the fact of the matter is MS has been pushing so few high end devices (song of this year and last). So a wondrous new feature that only small fraction of the market has.  Not saying it can't be that way, but on devices like the 830 and 735, being left with no other flagship sides a re-hashed M8 and last years (with the 930), it's a little slap to some. To some.  Anyway, just my personal opinion.
  • Will it support my Lumia 730
  • Pretty sure only phones with Snapdragon 600 or 800 SOC have the necessary coprocessor, and if I remember rightly, the Lumia 730 has a Snapdragon 400.
  • Well, how about this? Shame there aren't any new high end phones. So, with a 1020, there isn't anything worth buying to get it.  (unless you want a phablet,and even that isn't particularly new)
  • Daniel I got an update of 124 Packets on the 5th December & the software release version is.(3058.50000.1424.00x3/8.10.14219.341) which is Lumia denim but on extra's + info it still says Lumia Cyan why is this.
    Nokia l625 Uk on DP I'm puzzled why still displays Cyan any ideas
  • Yes, I agree.  The reason we pay more for higher-end phones is so we can still be waiting for the Denim update while other cheaper phones get is first (my Icon won't get Denim til January or February).  Way to go Verizon / Microsoft!  I feel the love, really I do (sarcasm)!
  • Buy a better Microsoft phone or leave the ecosystem.
  • That's fine and all but the high end phones are limited. We need more to choose from.
  • Lol, it is a feature that need a hardwarr thing, not in Snapdragon S4 (Lumia 920, 1020, etc).
  • Omg lol yes keep buying $100 Lumia
  • It's more fair to complain that the highest spec WP the M8 hasn't got it yet rather than the budget devices.
  • 1520 is highest spec phone.
  • HTC One M8 has a Snapdragon 801 compared to the 1520's Snapdragon 800. So, no.
  • The 1520, 930, and Icon are identical. The only difference is screen size and pixel density. While the 1520 has a larger screen, the 930/Icon have a higher pixel density.
  • Agreed M8 is the best WP and the 4th best overall..!!
  • Complain to HTC. This is a Lumia feature, not WP.
  • Is there a list of Lumias where this is applied?
  • Hey Cortana works with Lumia Sensor Core , not the snapdragon processor
  • no, @MicroWestcoast you are definitely 100% incorrect. If that were accurate, even the Lumia 635 would get Hey Cortana and there is no evidence to support that assertion to my knowledge. Hey Cortana only works on the Lumia Icon, Lumia 930 and Lumia 1520.
  • Daniel, once again, you sir are correct. It's directly tied to the processor.
  • If its only tied directly to the processor, does that mean that the HTC One M8 for Windows Phone will be getting Hey Cortana? Or do they need SensorCore and the Snapdragon 800?
  • It just annoys me sometimes because my previous phones were also the "lower" hardware with no features. I thought the 1020 was a sure phone to be updated with everything.
  • 1020's hardware (except for camera sensor) was old when it came out as the OS at the time did not support newer hardware (plus MS was not clued in on the 1020's hardware design, now that the teams are merged, won't happen again).
  • Yes no more pushing the limits, thanks God.
  • I didn't know that Daniel (Nokia switch timing), makes sense.
    And may explain to a degree why the camera is not of that quality post-1020.
  • No matter what phone you buy there comes a time where it will not have the hardware required to support a new feature. I have the 1520.3 which will support the Hey Cortana feature, but I guarantee that at some point some new feature or program will come out and my phone will not meet its requirements.
  • yep - that's pretty much guaranteed :)
  • Amen. The 1020 is their last true flagship imo. It's disappointing their hasn't been a successor announced for it and on top of that, no upgrade path to denim. The 1020 is the camera all other cameras are compared against! I've since moved on to an iPhone 6+. I can't be the only one who's felt let down by MS and had abandoned ship as much as it hurt me to do so.
  • IYO maybe, but the 1520, the 930 and the Icon blow the 1020 away except for the camera. And even the camera in those is fantastic. Those are the real true last flagships.
  • I totally agree. I have bought the 1020 thinking it is THE high end phone. But this thing is not getting the Hey cortana  thing and the 4K shooting. The only feature that should be on this phone , won't be available. What a shame. 
  • Hey Cortana” Voice Activation** – Gone are the days of pressing the microphone button to wake-up Cortana. Simply say “Hey Cortana” while the phone is idle and Cortana will activate. This is possible thanks to the SensorCore technology.
  • Yeah, that's great...but blogs make mistakes. Once again, show me the Lumia 635 that can do this.
  • The 635 has SensorCore technology
  • What are you smoking??? Sensor core technology uses the accelerometer... Why do you think that has anything to do with voice activation?.... Please explain, if you don't mind.
  • @MicroWestcoast - As I was informed by Microsoft, the "Hey Cortana" feature requires a combination of both SensorCore and an 800 or higher processor.  Having one or the other won't give you the "Hey Cortana" feature, you need both.  Only the Lumia 930, Icon and 1520 have both SensorCore technology and an 800 or higher processor which is why they are the only Lumia phones to get the "Hey Cortana" feature.  This is the "extra benefit"  you get when you buy a high end Windows phone.  Kinda like the higher end camera, higher pixel density, etc you get when you buy the more expensive iPhone 6 Plus over the iPhone 6.   Hope this helps clear it up.
  • That's info is not from a blog
  • Please provide us with a link to where you found this then, otherwise it still isn't clear whether this info is reliable or not
  • So... where is this from?
  • As soon as the update is complete you'll see. The 635 is the First Lumia to introduce Windows 8.1 and Cortana, in the United States
  • Maybe SensorCore is used, but it is also processor dependent. Snapdragon 800 processors can handle voice activation while older or cheaper processors simply can't
  • Quote battle: "...revealed some of the unique new featuresSnapdragon 800 processors will come loaded with, including IZat location technology, UltraHD video and quad Krait 400 cores at up to 2.3 GHz each. That said, we’re always keen to save a few surprises for later. If you’re wondering what more we could add to the Snapdragon 800 package, we’ve got two words for you: “Voice Activation”
  • Go back and look at what those double asterisks are referring to: “Hey Cortana” Voice Activation** – Gone are the days of pressing the microphone button to wake-up Cortana. Simply say “Hey Cortana” while the phone is idle and Cortana will activate. This is possible thanks to the SensorCore technology. ** Available on the Lumia 930, Lumia Icon, and Lumia 1520.
  • Hey Daniel, I have a samsung galaxy avant with ok google working and it uses a Snapdragon 400 processor. The only thing is, OK Google doesn't work when the phone is on standby.
  • SD800 series chips are designed to dedicate a low power cycle solely for the purpose of voice activation. Less powerful chips don't have this ability and would drain the phones battery in hours if they tried to. However, once the phone is already in use, it doesn't use much more power to listen for voice activation. That is why your phone responds to "ok google" when it is in use. Some phones also respond when the phone is charging but on standy by. It is all to convserve battery on lower end hardware.
  • Yes so in the future lower end capable phones should at lest get this while the phone is in use. Trust me its still very useful.
  • Is it didn't work on standby, wtf it's the point then?
  • So all or nothing eh. That's smart.
  • I think the point is, if I have to pick it up to take it out of standby, what is the point of having a handsfree's already in my hand. I use OK Google on my MotoX now and again when it is sitting in it's stand on my desk, and it is nice. If I have to pick iit up and turn it on, it is no harder to just hit the button.
  • It's always better to have something, some of the features, on a low end phone than to have nothing. And if Android can do it so can we.
  • The whole point of "Hey Cortana" is being able to wake the phone without having to wake it first.  Kinda pointless to have to pick up my phone, wake it from sleep and then say "OK Google."  "Hey Cortana" wakes the phone without even having to touch the phone as shown in the video.  Really comes in handy if you are working on something and have your hands full or messy and need to call someone.  "Hey Cortana, call (contact) on speakerphone"  No need to touch the phone.
  • Yes but its still also handy in the same scenario and your phone is still unlocked and your hands are dirty, you can still say hey Cortana on your Lumia 635. Instead of going to wash your hands then coming back to unlock your phone then press the search button for a couple seconds to wake Cortana, then tell her your request. I've lived this. Trust me, it is still useful. Why would you not want this on a low end phone. Makes no sense.
  • Agree that it would be nice to have the ability to activate Cortana by voice if your phone is already unlocked, and that feature might be something Microsoft is working on.  But seriously, most Windows Phones go to sleep within 3 to 5 minutes of no action, so how many times will a scenario actually occur where your phone isn't in sleep mode and you need to make a call hands free? Microsoft has a LOT of catching up to do with Android and iPhone and they are concentrating on features that are not only more widely desired but economically and technologically available at this time.  More and more innovative features will come as Windows 10 is released as well as newer phones, phablets and tablets with additional features, but for now, Microsoft needs to at least stay "in the game" with as many features as possible on low-end, cost-effective devices. Comparatively speaking, the cost of a 635 or 525 to a cheap android phone around the same price is a MUCH better value considering what you get on a WP comparred to the Android.  Low end spec Android phones are slow, laggy, buggy and typically lack a LOT of features compared to WP.  But what you must understand is that the "Hey Cortana" feature requires hardware that would NOT be cost effective in a low-end Windows Phone.  The 800(+) processors are somewhat expensive and would not allow a lower-end device like the 525 or 630 or 730 to be as cheap as they are.  Since Hey Cortana requires these expensive parts, you can't really expect to have these features on a low end device because it wouldn't be cost-effective to build a cheap device with such an expensive processor. While I can understand your desire to have "Hey Cortana" on your lower-end device, its just not cost effective for Microsoft to enable that feature.  Now, perhaps they will include "Hey Cortana" once your phone is already awakened as a feature later on, but really, how much more trouble is it to tap and hold the search key as opposed to saying "Hey Cortana?"  Its not really that hard to wipe one finger or if you activate the "super sensative" screen, you can easily place a napkin on your finger to press and hold the search button.
  • The feature I'm taking does not require an 800 snapdragon. It's available on the 400 series snapdragon. So cost would not be affected as I have said, this is currently working on an Android phone with the same snapdragon 400 processor the Samsung galaxy Avant. The snapdragon 800+ is only required for always listening. I can tell you do not own a low end phone. But to those millions of WP users on lower end phones this would still be a desirable feature. When owned my 521 I still wanted the Nokia Camera app even though I didn't have all the features. So try not to miss the point I'm trying to make here. It's not that complex. The feature is still cool, useful, desirable even with limited functionality.
  • My apologies if I seemed to be "missing the point", but I do believe I stated above that I understand your desire to have this feature.  I also stated that I believe this is something that Microsoft is currently working on, and it will most likely be a feature found in Windows 10, as they are already testing Cortana voice activation on Windows 10 technical preview for PCs.  Since Windows 10 will basically be one OS for ALL devices, I'm quite sure that voice activation for Cortana will be a feature for all Windows 10 devices, even the low-end phones.  However it will still be only the high-end phones that will have the "always listening" feature because of the physical requirements, but what you are asking for, I truely believe will be a part of Windows 10.  Patience is a virtue, as even sometimes the high-end devices get the shaft.  Case-in-point, the Lumia Icon (my phone).  The lower-end devices (928 and 822) are getting Lumia Denim while my Icon won't get it until "early 2015," go figure.  I paid more for my phone and have to wait for Lumia Denim until AFTER the lower-end devices get it.  In the end though, I will get Denim, you will eventually get "Hey Cortana" and we will all be happy.  Heck, I even read where Verizon has publically acknowledged that they intend to show a lot more support and love for Windows Phones with new devices and shorter waits on updates.  I'll believe it when I see it, but its nice to hear.
  • So Anyone could buy a 630 instead of any high end phone, to avail the feature! XD
  • :), welcome into the MS world. 
  • Don't be lazy.  All it takes is a simple Bing search or a trip to the Microsoft webpage to see that it takes both the 800 series snapdragon processor and Sensor Core to take advantage of "Hey Cortana!". Sounds like someone bought a phone without doing proper research and is now butt-hurt because he won't be getting the new features.  Figures -- he's a Steelers fan.
  • Lol... Chill out.
  • It works only with the snapdragon 8xx because it have the active listening feature without being a battery hog.
  • Mother fucker, I'm a Steelers fan.
  • You have every right to be insecure, then.
  • It is directly connected to snapdragon 800 and above. Without it you can't activate while the phone in stand by without draining so much battery. Check the snapdragon website.
    They can actually make cortana to listen (on ANY phone) while opening cortana app without the need to press the microphone it would be practical without consuming so much battery as people don't open cortana app all the time.
  • Correct me if I am wrong but it could be related to the number of microphones the phone has. A quick google search reveals that all these three devices (Icon, 930, 1520) have 4 microphones. Now if I am correct when Moto X was launched with the "Ok Google" catchphrase they put 3 microphones in the device. Two for ambient noise reduction for calls and one for ASR(Automatic Speech Recognition). So I think (I am not sure ) it could be directly related to the number of microphones and also partially towards the snapdragon 800 chipset because I think as you guys said it does have that low power core technology for voice activation.
  • You might be right but processor is key..!!
  • Really hope that activation phrase can be changed.
  • Ditto, it's awful. The rest of the world doesn't speak like chimps.
  • What does that even mean?
  • It means once again that North America has succeeded in dumbing down language and thinks the rest of the world has to follow.
  • In what way though? What do you mean?
  • What does THAT even mean?
  • No one knows what it means, it's provocative
  • Means one has to talk like Mike brown, rip.
  • Stop being so ethnocentric.
  • I would think not. Also what's wrong with the phrase. I think its fine.
  • Maybe I just prefer something more relevant to my usage? Choice is good.
  • I agree, choice is good but its better to get it out, working with a default and then think about flexibility and customisation later.
  • making cortana listen for a specific phrase is sooo much easier and simpler then making it learn how to listen for a different phrase, THEN learn how you say the phrase..
  • I don't think it's about the choice or not - Microsoft wants the whole feature 'branded', for now at least - so that everyone is walking around shouting Cortana's name - if you change it to your boss's name nobody will be able to associate that with MS. I'm guessing they're putting quite a bit into this, and they want to capitalize on that. They need exposure badly - and I don't think it's that much to ask from us poor MS users :))
  • I don't say "hey" to anybody, why would I want to say "Hey" to Cortana?  Besides, it sounds to much like "Hey Google" which makes me puke in my mouth.
  • I don't say "hey" to anybody, why would I want to say "Hey" to Cortana?
    Think about why they used that specific phrase... I'll give you a minute.
    Besides, it sounds to much like "Hey Google" which makes me puke in my mouth.
    Since the phrase Google uses is "OK Google", you won't have to worry about throwing up then. Unless you think the word "Google" itself sounds too much like "Cortana" in which case you're probably alone in thinking so.
  • My mistake about the OK Google, but still don't understand the "Hey" part. It still sounds rude and childish.  If I'm able to, I'll just say "Cortana".
  • It's "ok Google" not "hey Google." Get it straight.
  • Actually on a Classic MotoX, which was the first device to support it, the phrase to bring up search from standby is "OK Google Now". Has to include the "Now"  If the phone is not in standby, you can say "OK Google". I believe the newer MotoX you can have it learn whatever phrase you want. Not sure about Lollipop. I know the handsfree activation is to be there, but not sure about the phrase.
  • I agree they should allow it to be changed. But really, if they have a different activation command for each language (after all, Cortana isn't the name for the voice assistant globally) then it's not that big an issue. "Hey" is pretty common for catching someone's attention.
  • I hope this stays a Lumia only feature. Stop giving exclusive features away, Microsoft!
  • That's stupid. Microsoft can't just tell HTC not to implement certain firmware so they can keep it exclusive. If HTC wants to add it, they can.
  • No but they can keep certain aspects of the software specific for Lumias. There's a reason why at the time, Lumias had more freedom than Non-lumia phones. I hope they continue to keep this featrure as well as the Moments app and other future apps exclusive to Lumia.
  • For what reason would this need be exclusive to Lumias? It's a feature that uses Cortana, which is an OS wide feature that is used in many advertisements to promote WP in general. Making it Lumia-exclusive would be very short-sighted of Microsoft. They can't just brag that the HTC One has Cortana in commercials, then cripple the features.
  • +1
  • They are also a OEM now and need to give more compelling reasons for people to buy their phones. Google does the same thing with their Nexus stuff, does it not? Google provides a default standard for their OS but they do make things unique and signature for their nexus lines. Giving away exclusive apps like here and even worse, possibly the whole entire Lumia suite of apps to appease the minority and lesser OEMS such as HTC will only devalue/kill the lumia brand. But that's just my opinion. Let HTC do what they are already doing and making their own apps. For once in 4 years, they are actually useful.
  • That's just dumb. What sets Lumia apart from the rest, is quality build, camera, wireless charging, unparalleled support and an ocean of Lumia apps. Im all for keeping things exclusive but Cortana is an OS feature and a selling point for Windows, so it would be stupid to take that away from other OEMs. With Windows, MS has to work with partners/OEMs on making sure they get the full OS in order to help sell more devices which in turn gets their OS out there. By crippling it MS would practically be shooting themselves in the foot. In terms of competing as an OEM, MS differentiates itself through the hardware as well as APPS that work exclusively with their hardware. The feature isnt even available on all Lumias just flagships and ppl are already bitching about this, despite knowing they chose to pay less for their devices. In the case of OEMs the second MS takes away OS features for competitive reasons they will get the finger, which MS really doesnt need right now.
  • Hey Cortana*** feature is only available for Lumia phones with SensorCore technology.
  • Nope actually Daniel said it above just snapdragon 8xx and above devices...630 apparently has sensorcore
  • I think when Microsoft reaches a specific market share..They're gonna make a single device just like Apple..A flagship every year and concentrate on their sea of R&D..!! I agree with @Superboy Micah but it's not the right time to do so..!!
  • what your not understanding, is microsoft doesnt WANT to be an OEM, they only bought nokia's D&S division because if nokia left, WP would be completely dead, their long term goal is to get many more OEM's on board and then kill the lumia's (or at the very least turn it into the "surface" line for windows phones)
  • Oddly, what Google does with their Nexus phones is to not provide the "value added' of their partners. The devices tend to have less screwy features and software, which is actually beneficial. It is sort of like the signature version you buy at the MS store. That said, I think Cortana and all her features, including handsfree activation, should be a core OS feature, subject to hardware capability naturally. The 'gestures' options for silencing, invoking speakerphone, and such, that just came out should also be core OS features.
  • It may devalue the Lumia brand but it also opens up more options for people wanting to switch to a Windows phone or wanting a change from the Lumia line. The only thing I see them keeping exclusive to Lumia is the OP camera hardware.
  • You realize who you're debating with right?
  • The M8 owners are so sensitive lol.
  • The only sensitive one is the kid who downs other OEMs. Are you being bullied by Samsung and HTC phones? Did they steal your bike?
  • b..but they stole my spaceship!! ;(
  • I actually think there are so many reasons to stick with Lumia that they need to make as much available to the OEMs as possible, just to give them a fighting chance.
  • No the OEMs need to do more compelling stuff. Throwing an ugly case on a phone(A poor man's glance) as attractive as the M8 and some cool speakers is not enough.
  • I'm not sure how much they can really do... they can't skin interfaces like on Android (thank God). About all they can do is create compelling looking hardware, and support it well.  However, I think we all know the money is not neccessarily there to do it right... Microsoft has reasons to do it, but the OEMs need a much quicker return on investment to make it worthwhile. I kind of feel bad for them... it's tough to complete on hardware support and features with the company that makes the OS.  I doubt I will ever buy a third party Microsoft phone.
  • Fully agree with Poddie! ...and yes other OEMs need to step up their game and to give ppl reason to buy their devices but an OS is an OS it shouldnt be crippled unless hardware cant use it (like lower range Lumias) and by having more devices out there that use Hey Cortana allows the system to "learn" much quicker in order for Cortana to improve. Other OEMs CANNOT develop their own assistant nor should they have to spend resources to do so! That would just eat from their profits and at the end of t