Microsoft is bringing multi-user voice recognition to Cortana

While many like to say Cortana is dead, the reality of the situation is that Cortana is far from dead. Microsoft has lots of plans for Cortana internally, most of which involve repositioning Cortana as a productivity assistant focused on helping you work better across devices. Of course, being a voice assistant will continue to stick around too, with improvements upcoming in that area in addition to all the other plans for Cortana.

Today, hints at a new voice feature for Cortana has made an appearance in Windows 10. Some people who have an Xbox or Harman Kardon Invoke setup on their account are now seeing an option to train Cortana for use with multiple people, allowing more than one person to see their content and data just by using their voice.

The option to setup the feature isn't working for everyone just yet, but now that the option is showing up publicly, it shouldn't be long before it does start working for all. According to the features description, users can train Cortana to recognize their own voice, before adding five more people into the mix for a total of six individual people that Cortana can recognize.

Microsoft has been testing multi-user support for sometime internally, and it appears the public will be able take advantage of said new feature very soon. Microsoft originally envisioned Cortana's multi-user features with its Home Hub plans back in 2016, and over the last couple of years we've seen bits and pieces of Home Hub show up throughout Microsoft's many products and services.

Will you be taking advantage of Cortana's upcoming multi-user support? Let us know in the comments.

Thanks for the tip, Jonathan!

Zac Bowden
Senior Editor

Zac Bowden is a Senior Editor at Windows Central. Bringing you exclusive coverage into the world of Windows on PCs, tablets, phones, and more. Also an avid collector of rare Microsoft prototype devices! Keep in touch on Twitter: @zacbowden.

  • I recently bought an Invoke for my basement. Once I got it all working, I found i liked it so much I bought another one for upstairs. I use it to control my Hue lights, make phone calls, reminders, and of course general knowledge from the internet. I am excited that they are continuing to make updates.
    If you are a Cortana user and been going back and forth on buying one, go for it. The price is very reasonable now for such a great speaker. "Cortana, play Christmas music" Ahhh the sounds of the season. :-)
  • Same here. I purchased one for upstairs once I started using it I bought one for the basement. I might even by a third. :)
  • This is great. I still am weary of Microsoft's effort with Cortana. I bought the invoke for $40 and what a great purchase. The sound is amazing. I do not use a lot of the skills outside of controlling my Xbox and Office 365 stuff. Really excited to see them not just move on completely.
  • Although my initial reaction is "finally," I know the amount of work it must take to implement such a feature properly so I'm glad they were able to execute it. They just need to announce it for real, for real to the masses as a competitive advantage over Alexa and Siri. What I'd really like to see is for it to function like Xbox does and separate the connected services as well, like Spotify accounts, etc.
  • I have been disappointed a lot lately by MS abandoning consumer facing offerings, mostly because I bought in to just about everything, so this is a nice thing to see. I have an Invoke and I am encouraged by this kind of silent commitment to supporting at least something I miss using more.
  • I have 3 of them and would like to get one more for another room but I haven't used that room much so I'm waiting. I feel like some changes have been made because i've been having some weird results with voice activation through SmartThings lately. It sucks there are very few voice guides on what to say to do certain things.
  • Harmon Kardon may not release an Invoke 2 (Samsung), but Cortana being on the device almost guarantees that it will be updated by Microsoft, especially since it's their only smart speaker product on the market.
  • I would, I would even buy an Invoke if it supported Spanish. Also, how whould this work? Does it recognize different accounts, each with their associated services?
  • Yeah, you add people and then they repeat 5 phrases so that Cortana learns their voice.
  • Well, that should work pretty well, and indeed it opens the way for Home Hub. Interesting development, I thought they had given up on it. Well done, MS.
  • They had already been testing out multi-voice recognition with all the Microsoft Teams/Skype meeting attendance and transcription features. Microsoft has a great chance to bring out rich and unique features that Cortana alone cab show off.
  • This has been showing up in the ios cortana app for at least the last couple of weeks. At least for the testflight version.
  • The only problem I see is that due to Dan and Zack triggering Cortana more than I do (Podcast, Mixer and YouTube) every time one of them talks she will think it is me talking and I will be assigned some other guest on my own account. Ha Ha
  • Checking if I have this ability for my Invoke as soon as I get home. My wife likes the Invoke but she considers it to be mine since it is attached to my account. Now I'm sure she'll love it if she can also attach her account to it to make it more personal for her.
  • YES! YES! YES! This is fantastic! I've been wanting to use this on my Harman Kardon Invoke since I got it last year! I'm going to see if it's available tonight, when I get home. :)
  • Cortana already does that with Kinect. My wife and I experience this almost daily.
  • omg, we get it, most of us agree. But every time you comment it's just complaining. Time to move on Scuba.
  • Agreed Scuba! My problem is I need to get a Kinect adapter for an Xbox ONE X. Because soon enough my Xbox One's will bite the bullet.
  • Did you mean to say you will have to bite the bullet and buy another Xbox or your Xbox One will bite the dust?
  • They were already ahead of the game with Kinect. With this achievement every device that can run Cortana (irrespective of the presence or lack of a GUI) can access this feature. The only thing missing would probably be the gesture control that Kinect offered.
  • Absolutely I'm excited! The Invoke we ordered should be here any day, and this feature will make it even more useful in our house.
  • Wow, I wonder it it'll only add confusion to my household now lol
  • I have 2 invokes... but I moved on. I'm giving them away.
    Multi-room music support was really what I wanted/needed.
    The invoke was also occasionally buggy, so that didn't help.
    Oh, and Pandora... Where are you? The lack of support is actually what forced me to move on to Spotify, and I'll never look back. Sure, multi-user support is great. But I feel like I was one of the hard-core MS holdouts with band, phone, and invoke.. and I was let down every time so I moved on. Now sporting a Fitbit ionic, Note 9, and Sonos One speakers.
    Sonos One are pretty amazing.
  • I'll take them off your hands 👀
  • Dude, I'll buy them from you. For reals. PM me.
  • Lol not as die hard as me.... Band broke? I find I never really cared much for it except for the notifications and vibrate wake alarm. Invoke still working but I don't find I wish I could do more with an AI speaker.
    Next are my windows mobile devices... When they become unusable, maybe I'll realize I don't really need a phone anymore ;) Goooo pocketable, foldable, always connected Windows arm device
  • Lovely wallpaper. I found the source:
  • The Echo does this, supposedly, but I haven't felt a desire to set up Amazon accounts for the whole family. We do have separate Microsoft accounts already, though, so this would make things easier, especially if it respected the Family Settings to help me keep track of my younger kids....
  • Since Invoke doesn't support playing music on Groove there is no point for me in buying it. I only use Groove with all the music being in my OneDrive. If they add support for it, I might get one.
  • I do agree that Microsoft does need to add OneDrive music through Groove as an option for speakers that use their tech. This way we can play playlist with our OWN music in it. Lots a music I want to hear that will never get played on Spotify or iHeart.
  • Coming from someone with two Invokes, this is great news! This would put Cortana over the others out there imo. Actually thinking about getting two more Invokes just because they're great speakers and I get a lot of use out of them. Would much rather have these as the "helper" and radio in the home than a traditional dumb stereo for the kids rooms.
  • It's on sale for $50 I'm thinking about picking one up myself
  • what a pity that ms is not pushing cortana to consumers... thanks to *******
  • It will be interesting to see how this functionality plays out in terms of accuracy.
    I'm curious, will this functionality be able to distinguish between identical twins through voice alone? lol.
  • According to the screenshot in the article, it will not be able to distinguish between identical twins, or even if someone sounds like you. But this is early tech, I am sure it will get better as it is exposed to more data and the recognition pattern is improved. What it reads in the screenshot: "Anyone talking to this device will be able to access your skills or personal results if their voice sounds like yours, or they explicitly switch to your account."
  • That's understandable and true it is early tech. Just have few thoughts in terms of biometric authentication if it cannot distinguish between twins. As security gets "smarter" so will people with nefarious intent. Awhile ago a car got stolen without any access to the physical keys by remotely copying the fob signal just by standing outside the house and using a relay. It's a classic chicken and egg problem, mentioning said thoughts can give those with nefarious intent ideas to circumvent authentication. Yet on the flipside, not mentioning them means others are not aware of the potential security aspects or flaws. I'm sure I don't need to point out the obvious flaw in this functionality in terms of authentication. Plus given these sort of speakers are connected usually via WiFi...thus using WPA/WPA2 so there are other factors in play.
  • Still waiting for Cortana to become useful at all, so I don't know about being dead. Outside of just one country, the thing has never shown any signs of life since it was announced. I guess this new feature won't be coming out for anyone outside the US like everything else Cortana can't do?
  • about freakin time I have 3 invokes
  • My take is that your report is based on a tip that originated with me. Do a little digging, Zac. You'll see that Jonathan was reacting to my tweet back on December 2. He even referenced me in his reply to Mary Jo. Not looking for kudos, but I would expect a little more thorough vetting from a site that breaks a lot of news.
  • So, then each person would be linked to their own microsoft account bringing their own calendar and own emails then? Found this
    "After everything is set up, users will get access to their personalized content, including things like email, calendar, music, and reminders." What about common things such as controlling lights? We have two Invokes and maybe a third one now
  • cool, all those home pod type devices should have this so if the tv or someone not a resident speaks it will ignore that voice
  • No. Just no.
    It will still respond to others. All this means is personalize responses for personalized inquiries
  • I have an Invoke. I bought it to use as a Bluetooth speaker, not for Cortana. I use Cortana, but I don't have her set up on anything where she can listen to surroundings full time. I'll never have a constant listening device of any kind in my home.
    I just created a temporary guest wifi, hooked the Invoke up through that (which you must do first in order to use Bluetooth), and once everything was initialized I just deleted that temp guest network. Now I have an Invoke Bluetooth speaker that cannot communicate with the outside world in any way.
  • MS' US only focus destroys every effort and great achievement they make. Does not matter how good things are if they are unavailable. And if everyone start using something else, investing, the train will leave the station.
  • Yeah I got an Invoke shipped to Australasia and it's great but the cost of getting here was horrendous
  • Didn't I hear they are going to remove the cortana button from being prominent on the task bar in a future build, and basically decoupling it from the windows search? This feels a little familiar, like she's slowly getting dragged away in some bag and the bricks and rope are over there, then we see a strange update like this...
  • Not strange at all. Separating the two in windows 10 doesn't mean they're getting rid of cortana. Dan talks about it in one of the recent podcasts.
  • You believe that? Lol
  • This sounds awesome. I just they'd fix my weather forecast issue... It never gives the high temperature.
  • Mine use to do that too, but lately, Ive been getting the highs with the phrase "hey Cortana, whats the weather today"...let me know if it works for you. And if that doesn't work, you can always say "Hey Cortana, whats the high today"
  • YES! !! !!!, This is huge and very welcomed indeed.
  • Looks like they also fixed a location issue I was having with 1 of my 3 invokes. It kept thinking I was in Redmond even after resetting it several times. Glad that it got fixed. It was the main one in my living room and it sure pissed my wife off every time she asked for the weather
  • I just reset my invoke today and I get my temperature in degree Celsius now!
  • My parents have a heavy accent.
    Which is the best Voice Assistant for that? Cortana works pretty well for me (no accent - well...Canadian, eh?) I hope with all the Azure stuff they are invested in - Cortana is part of their future.....(WP, Band...dont' go that way)
  • I speak with an accent and I can tell you the best digital assistant for bilinguals or somebody with accent is Google Assistant. It will recognize your command even if you say part of it. I don't like anything from Google, but I can tell you that I am impressed with the Google Assistant. It is the only thing I use regularly from Google. Not even Alexa get close to it in voice recognition.
  • Seems like a great feature for a Surface Speaker. Especially for use in a meeting room. If one could say Hey Cortana set up my one o’clock conference call on Skype... or XYZ conferencing service... how cool would that be? That would kill in the enterprise. And only Cortana could pull off something like that.
  • No, for the simple reason there has been little to no progress in language support.
  • Anybody else seen this option yet? Also just purchased my 3rd Invoke from Microsoft for $49.
  • Just purchased the invoke can't wait to try it out.😁
  • I was just checking this out on my Harman Kardon Invoke. Doesn't look like its available there, yet. I see, in the pics for this article, that the person doing the configuration, is using an Xbox. Perhaps it hasn't reached the Invoke yet?
  • Cortana was the best digital assistant (with no doubt) on the best mobile OS (WM10), I was so proud of both of them. But, don't get use to the new Cortana improvements, because you will be left behind soon anyway. A digital assistant is for a mobile platform and Microsoft is dead in that area.
  • Shhhh, don't tell me that or I might stop using Cortana on my Xbox (everyday), my Invoke (nearly everyday) and my Pixel (everyday).