Forget 'Hey Cortana,' you can now just say 'Cortana' on the Invoke speaker

In a small, but significant, change Microsoft has dropped the requirement that users say "Hey Cortana" to call upon the digital assistant when using the Harmon Kardon Invoke speaker. Now, users can just say "Cortana" to light up the speaker and begin making requests or asking questions.

The shortened command does not work for Windows 10 PCs or on Android or iOS (yet).

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One potential benefit of being able just to say "Cortana" is it prevents multiple Windows 10 devices possibly from triggering. In saying "Hey Cortana" the Invoke and any nearby Windows 10 PCs (and Mobile devices) could all awake and take the command.

The new ability comes on the heels of many new features in Cortana – at least in the U.S. – including support for Ecobee, IFTTT, and the ability to do things like check for new emails and even responding to them.

Harman Kardon Invoke review

Microsoft also hinted during its official Windows Insider Mixer stream that more smart speakers may be coming soon, including to the U.K. For now, we'll have to wait and see.

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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.

  • took them *this long*, to realize that saying, "Hey Cortana", was a bad idea. When the competition just has to say, "Alexa" More smart speakers on the way. Oh good. I'm sure we'll get the Cortana Spot just in time for everyone else to be 3-4 years ahead. How in the world has a Cortana device that utilizes Skype with a screen not come out yet?
  • There's still "OK Google" & "Hey Siri"...
  • Honestly, it doesn't make a big difference between saying one word vs two words to activate the AI assistant. Sure, it's nice that you don't have to on the invoke anymore, but really not a huge deal breaker when people are choosing between what AI assistants to use.
  • I agree we need a screen for Cortana too so I put my vizio tablet remote and its qi stand on my microwave and installed Cortana. Now I have one and it's way more beautiful than an eco show. And that vizio p65 remote has some great stereo sound.
  • Not just a screen, Cortana needs a presence detection camera that can face detect. That way, a device knows if you are talking to it rather than another device by if you are looking at it and can tell when someone enters and who that person is.  That way, if I walk in the room, she immediately knows it is me and not my kid, like my xbox does.
  • Just wanted to point out an error in the article. Sorry Dan but mobile has this feature too but you have to use Cortana as part of a phrase like Cortana hows the weather. If u just say Cortana you get nothing 90% of the time which if my invoke works that way is sooooooo much better than anything Alexa can do from a useability stand point. I'll check invoke and Xbox beta tonight. I'll let u know if I find anything.
  • My Lumia 950 XL activates on purely "Cortana" alone.
  • Great news for the one or two Americans that bought one... For the rest of us there's Android...
  • Check your math, hater...I have THREE 😂
  • For $100, are they selling these things at a loss?
  • I stand corrected... 😁 Sounds like another runaway MS consumer product triumph... As I am unable to purchase one ( or three) of these I have filled my house with Sonos products and use the awesome Android app to control them... As a former MS diehard I would like to thank MS for killing Microsoft phone and forcing me to the wonderful world that is Android... 😁
  • ewwww - sonos. Stands for Sound, Only Not gOod Sound.
  • How do I know if my invoke has updated?
  • Yeah, this should help for my THREE as well.
  • I have one and I know two others that have them.
  • If they make this the standard activation phrase for all cortana devices it'll be back to square one. Time they either allow custom phrases or add proximity detection; interestingly enough that would make them the only company to achieve this. Let's hope they don't sit on their hands again and watch while the competition gets there first, again.....
  • Yeah, I suggested presence (not just proximity) detection to the Cortana team quite some time ago with some very specific easy ways to implement. But, Microsoft Research probably has had it in house for years and just wants to keep it for themselves.
  • If you say "hey Cortana" will the Invoke still activate? If so, it only solves getting the speaker to work without PCs responding, but not vice versa.
  • Yes, saying "Hey Cortana" still works on my Invoke, but I am not sure if it is because it activates based on the full two-word phrase or if it just happens to hear you say "Cortana" and then activates based on that.
  • Microsoft needs to stop thinking so small time with consumer products.
    It's simple.. Go big, or go home. Do it 3000% or 0%... There's no in between.
  • That my friend is what MSFT lacks, boldness.
  • Yep amazing ideas horrible road to market.
  • Ideas are the easy part.
  • But that is scary.... 😨
  • I hope these smart speakers arrive in other countries sooner than later and don't need to be set to English (US) to enable accessibility to the features and skills.
  • Totally agree, I have two Invoke speakers in Australia and I am perplexed but unsurprised at the lack of commitment and concern MSFT has for external markets and the functionality of Cortana. I hate having to jump through hoops just to get the devices to function even at a basic level. Changing settings, trying to find creative phrasing just to get metric responses. MSFT continues to show contempt for markets outside North America where it takes years for even simple improvements to be realised. For years Cortana and Bing have languised outside NA, it's about time MSFT put some money and programming behind rolling out the full Cortana and Bing experience to the rest of the English speaking world. We want access to the best features and we also want the ability to purchase devices like the Invoke in our native markets that also function as well as the devices do natively in NA. I am hoping the two Invoke speakers I have will eventually see all the features function as I'd expect when MSFT ever prioritises the rest of the world.
  • Microsoft are going to have to work harder and faster than this if they want to make meaningful inroads into the voice assistant market. They need game changers not name changes.
  • I wish they would sell these in Australia. I am a bit sick of the amount of Microsoft stuff that has been USA only over the years
  • Yeah, I love it when I am sitting in my media room with my Surface Book and phone with xbox on and Cortana gets in a fight with herself" Me: "Hey Cortana, watch ESPN" (to xbox) Phone Cortana: "I'm sorry, I didn't get that" SB Cortana: "I'm sorry can you repeat that" Phone Cortana: "I'm sorry, I didn't get that" Xbox Cortana - tunes to ESPN SB Cortana: "I didnt understand" Phone Cortana: "Can you repeat that" etc... goes on infinitely
  • You could just disable it all, getting rid of the voice assistant junk on my devices worked great for me.
  • I turn off Key Cortana on my XBOX so it goes back to using previous "XBOX" commands instead, I don't mind loosing the Cortana specific features on the Xbox. Its also much faster to respond to commands.
    Also disable the Hey on my SurfaceBook because its easy to use hotkeys or click the mic icon.
    For my invoke was the last one responding to hey cortana… Now this has been enabled I could actually turn it back on for the SB if I wanted too.
  • This is awesome! Thanks for the report Dan, may buy a second invoke before the price goes back up then end of this month...
  • I hope they make it an option. I like being able to speak to my Invoke without the PCs I have in range picking up the commands and all trying to act on it.