A few weeks ago, the Cortana team introduced a new concert-tracking feature listed under Interests. By enabling Concert Watch, Cortana can show you when your favorite artists are playing in your area and how to get tickets. It is an ingenious addition to the personal assistant as keeping track of your favorite artists is getting more and more difficult with our increasingly complex lives.
As cool as the concert-tracking feature is, we had a few questions about how it all worked. Luckily, we were able to ask Limor Lahiani, Principal Development Lead and Hadas Bitran, Principal Program Management Lead at Microsoft about how Cortana does what she does.
How does Cortana pick your favorite artists? I assume it is tied into Xbox Music, but even there is it based on your collection or something more sophisticated?
"Cortana gets smarter over time and learns about the user preferences based on usage and user feedback. The algorithm may take a variety of signals/inputs under account including music-related searches, music played, social network signals, etc."
How far out does it notify the user that a concert is coming up e.g. two weeks, two days, 24 hours, etc.?
"Cortana notifies the user when a concert has tickets available. Could be even 6 months in advance, when the concert is announced."
"This is something that should be learned over time, and may depend on the user patterns as well as the popularity and attributes of the event, for example how quickly ticks get sold out for the artist or how small is the venue."
Will there be a way to add manually artists to this Interest?
"From the product perspective, user control is a key aspect of Cortana and the Notebook reflects that."
"Today we allow the users to hide a specific artist concerts in case they are not interested in them. We are considering ways to enable adding artists via the Cortana Notebook."
Any thoughts about letting users pin it to their Start screen?
"From the product perspective, we are considering multiple ways to evolve Cortana and make her more useful, including floating experiences in the live tile."
Is it possible to expand it to just genres? This way the user can explore new artists in their area that may overlaps with their musical tastes.
"Technically, it's possible and quite straight forward to support genres as well. We have considered that when we planned the Concert Watch, but experience-wise, we decided to start with specific artists as people tend to spend their time and money on concerts of their favorite artists and less on concerts by artists they are less (if at all) familiar with. The favorite genre is more suitable to exploration scenarios, in which the user learns about new artists she might like based on her favorite genres and favorite artists. This can be a great way to discover new music and albums."
I know you probably can't talk roadmaps, but just want to throw it out there a top request, which is also somewhat logical: Let Cortana scan your Xbox Music collection and have Cortana tell you when a new album or single is out. There is already a nice universal app called 'Album Releases' that does this, but obviously, it would be super cool for Cortana to do it natively.
"From the product perspective, we are considering additional features. Indeed, we cannot talk roadmaps, but Cortana is evolving, and more cool stuff is coming."
Concert Watch is certainly one of the more innovative uses of Cortana so far and it is great to have some light shed on how it all works. For those using Cortana today, have any of you used Concert Watch yet?
Special thanks to Sandeep Paruchuri at Microsoft for facilitating this article and to Limor Lahiani and Hadas Bitran for taking the time to answer our questions!