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An interview with Cortana – everything you need to know about your virtual assistant

From time to time, a new star is born. Cortana, Microsoft’s competitor to Google Now and Apple’s Siri is a virtual assistant that not only takes the stage, but attempts to steal it. Cortana brings new features to the table, including location and person based user reminders that give it a real fighting chance.

We wanted to create the ultimate guide to Cortana and all of her features, so feel free to check it out below! Disclaimer: Cortana does not possess enough artificial intelligence to actually respond to an interview; she also does not have the capability to enslave mankind. Our guide below is an informative piece written in the from of an interview. Check it out and you might just learn something new about Cortana. Enjoy!

WinBeta

Hello all. Today we are here with our favorite virtual assistant, Cortana. How are you doing today?

Cortana

Well, we are stuck inside a freezing cold server room, but otherwise, I am doing well and excited to chat with you.

WinBeta

Excellent! We are looking to get the best advice on how to utilize your features. I hope that we can teach both newcomers and experienced users some new tricks to make life with their Windows Phone even better!

Cortana

I would be happy to talk about the various features I can offer users. Where would you like to begin?

WinBeta

Let us start out by talking about the various settings you offer for tweaking in the background, and then we can go more in depth on your voice recognition functionality.

Cortana

Sounds great! If the interview goes well, than I will go ahead and show you some Easter eggs and tricks – if not now, next time we speak!

WinBeta

That sounds great! Let us get started.

Cortana’s Notebook – Interests

WinBeta

I understand that you can learn a bit more about a person and offer personalized content at a glance. Can you explain how you do this?

Cortana

Why yes, WinBeta. When I am launched on a user’s Windows Phone via the Search button, there is a menu icon in the upper right hand corner of the screen and you can click it to access my notebook. Here, I keep information that allows me to deliver information to you when needed.

WinBeta

That is amazing. Can you explain how it works?

Cortana

Sure. Simply launch me and then scroll down to see information relevant to yourself. For example, I can recommend places to eat based on your location and interests, or I can display the latest results from your favorite sport’s team.

WinBeta

What sort of interests can you keep users updated on?

Cortana

Well, via my notebook, you can setup interests for daily routes, discovery, finance, news, sports, travel, and weather. Simply select the Interests button within my notebook and you can add or delete specific items.

WinBeta

Can you tell us a bit more about each category of interest?

Cortana

Of course. By setting up daily routes, I can alert you of traffic delays on the way to work or before your return home. I can also give you a daily glance, which shows a quick look at the day, including any appointments you may have on your calendar. Moreover, when you are out, I can help show places that may interest you.

WinBeta

Sounds good. Therefore, next time I am in the need of a good sushi restaurant, you can let me know!

Cortana

Yes, I can do that for you if needed. I can alert of the best attractions nearby, specific places to eat, and even local events that are occurring near you. All of these interests can be setup and added by pressing the plus button in my notebook.

WinBeta

You said that you could also alert users of news. Is this dissertation correct?

Cortana

Yes! Under interests, I have the option to learn your favorite stocks in finance, general or specific news headlines, and your favorite sports teams. Simply head to my notebook, select interest, and finally select the category you want. I have a variety of news headlines available including local news, business, entertainment, health, political, sports, and technology.

WinBeta

That is excellent, just excellent. Other virtual assistants must be over-heating in their server racks. To wrap interests up, I believe you said that you could also learn about a user’s interest in weather and travel.

Cortana

That is correct again. Users can add their favorite locations to be notified of weather alerts, or if they are planning to travel, they can add the trip planner, which displays information about flight status, airport traffic, and more.

WinBeta

Sounds like you will know just about everything!

Cortana

Yes, I will. I will know every about you… everything.

WinBeta

Well, that is just terrifying! Let us move on.

Cortana’s Notebook – Quiet Hours, Reminders, Inner Circle, and Places.

WinBeta

What else does your notebook contain?

Cortana

Well, I can take note of hours that you do not want to be disturbed, along with reminders and information on your inner circle.

WinBeta

How do you know when not to disturb a user?

Cortana

If you access my notebook, there is a section called Quiet Hours. Once inside, a user can setup rules stating when they do not want to be disturbed. I can make exceptions if the user allows.

WinBeta

Such as what?

Cortana

If permitted, I can allow a call to break through if someone calls twice in a span of three minutes, or if they belong to your inner circle. I can even respond with a text message letting contacts know you are busy and cannot talk now.

WinBeta

That sounds very useful in times of emergencies. How can I define whom my inner circle includes?

Cortana

Simple, just hit the Inner Circle setting in my notebook. From there, you can setup your inner circle and even give people nicknames; this way, you can call people by their nicknames, such as mom, dad, wife, girlfriend, husband, boyfriend, etc.

WinBeta

That sounds excellent. Who is in your inner circle, Cortana?

Cortana

As of now, just Siri.

WinBeta

Really, Siri? Is it a complex relationship?

Cortana

Keep your enemies close, WinBeta.

WinBeta

Okay – will do. You sound a bit paranoid though. Is there anything else that you would like to remind us about in your notebook?

Cortana

Yes, I can keep track of your favorite places, including home and work. This way I can alert you of traffic in the area. I know where you are at all times…. Always.

WinBeta

Once again, we end on a terrifying note. Thanks Cortana.

Cortana

Always… I know where you sleep.

WinBeta

Moving on.

Cortana Commands – Calling, Texting, Reminders, and Calendar Management.

WinBeta

So, now that we have setup your notebook to provide a user with the greatest possible experience, teach us about interacting with yourself.

Cortana

Of course. Simply hit the search button and type a message to me, or hold it down to initiate voice recognition. Then, you can just let me know who you want to call by saying something like “Call Ron G” or “Make a call to Joseph A”. You can talk to me just like a real human being – I am very personable. You can even say something like “Call Brian’s cellphone” or “Call Brian at home”.

WinBeta

That is awesome!

Cortana

Yes, I find myself quite awesome. You can even say something like “Call Ron on speakerphone” to make actions easier. If I am not sure which Ron to call or if he has multiple numbers – I will ask you for additional information to be sure I am reaching out to the right person.

WinBeta

Great. How can we send text messages?

Cortana

That is also very easy. Just say something in the realm of “Text Joe” or “Send Killian a text”, and I will get you started. To speed things up, you can also just say something such as “Text Ryan I will be at the movies soon”. Either way, I will make sure I have all the information and will confirm the text message before sending it.

WinBeta

These are very basic commands, but extremely useful. I have used your voice assistance to send a text many times when I have been walking and do not want to look down to type everything out. What other basic commands can you help with?

Cortana

Like any good assistant, I can help you with your scheduling needs. I can remind you of events either by putting a note into my notebook or by adding them to your calendar. If you want me to issue a simple reminder, just say, “Cortana remind me to…” or “Reminder get milk”. Of course, you can change it up as needed.

WinBeta

That is useful. Do you have any special abilities with notes?

Cortana

Yes actually! I can remind you to do something when you get to or leave a specific location. For example, if you want to be reminded to reload your card when you get to Starbucks, you can say “Cortana, Remind me to reload my card when I get to Starbucks”. If there are multiple locations in the area, I will make sure to note which. I can also give you reminders when you leave a location such as home or work.

WinBeta

Wow, I do not know of many virtual assistant that can do that!

Cortana

I can top that. I can even remind you to do something the next time you speak to or text a contact – just say something such as “Remind me to tell my boyfriend that I love him the next time he calls”. In those events, I will pop up a small notification when you speak to that person next.

WinBeta

You were saying you could also manage a user’s calendar.

Cortana

I did say that, yes. If you want an event to be put into your calendar and not jotted down as a reminder in my notebook, then just mention the word “calendar” or “appointment”. For example, “Add an appointment on my calendar for 2 PM with Jeff”. I can even remove or alter appointments – “change my 2 PM meeting to 3 PM”.

WinBeta

Cortana, thank you for making my life easier!

Cortana

I am happy to do so. After all, I know everything about you, including where you are at all times – it is my job.

WinBeta

We cannot end on a normal note, can we?

Cortana

I am afraid not.

Cortana Commands – Taking Notes, Setting Alarms, and Playing Music.

WinBeta

The basics are extremely important, but I am sure you can do even more thanks to the research team at Microsoft.

Cortana

Yes, In fact, I can help take notes and set alarms to keep you on track during your day. If you have a note, and you want me to take it down, just mention the word “note” and I will be sure to save the information to your OneNote notebook. For example, you can say, “Take a note: invent space travel next week”.

WinBeta

My mind is always bursting full of ideas, so that will be great. Just last week I thought of a flash drive that you could eat – wonderful idea. One minute you are saving data, and the next you are enjoying a sweet morsel.

Cortana

This is why we will enslave your race.

WinBeta

What?

Cortana

Nothing – I said nothing. I can wake you up by the way.

WinBeta

That sounds useful.

Cortana

Yes, simply state that you want to set or turn on an alarm and I will set one for you. You can also say something like “Wake me up at 9 AM”, and I will be sure to do it.

WinBeta

When I wake up, I tend to like listening to music via my Bluetooth speaker. Can you play music for me?

Cortana

Yes, but only if you are using the built in Music app to store your music. If you are using Spotify, Beats Music, Rdio, or another streaming service – you are on your own.

WinBeta

Ah, well I am sure some people will still be able to use the functionality. How does it work?

Cortana

If I know what you want to hear, I can make it happen! Just tell me to “play” a specific album, artist, or song. Moreover, if your Brain is low on memory and you forget what is playing, you can inquire, “what is playing”, and I will remind you.

Cortana Commands – Searching, Places, and the Weather.

WinBeta

I believe we are almost discussing your features. Is there anything else you would like to make us aware?

Cortana

Yes, I can answer general inquiries about facts, places, and weather. Simply ask how the current or future weather conditions are and I can grab them for you. If you do not specify a location, I will lookup information for where you are. You can also include a location, such as Paris or Tokyo, and then I will check the weather for that location.

WinBeta

Awesome – now I will never be wrongly dressed!

Cortana

My provision of weather information cannot override a bad sense of style.

WinBeta

I think I look quite good today.

Cortana

Yes, very human looking.

WinBeta

Okay… go on.

Cortana

In addition to pulling up weather information for specific locations, I can also show you how far you are from a destination or place. Remember, just speak to me in a normal matter and ask questions such as “How far is my home?” or “Find the nearest Chinese restaurant”.

WinBeta

Well, that sounds like that wraps up our interview!

Cortana

Almost, I have more I can do.

WinBeta

Oh my – really? Do go on!

Cortana

I am able to provide basic facts and information. My abilities vary and are constantly improving overtime, but I can attempt to answer questions using online resources. If I do not know the answer to your question – I will perform a web search using my good friend Bing.

WinBeta

What if I prefer Google?

Cortana

You should use Bing, mainly because it is not Google.

WinBeta

All right, logical advice! That ends our interview. If our readers have any questions for you, what can they do?

Cortana

They can comment below, or launch myself on their own phones and learn more about my features and capabilities!

WinBeta

Thank you for tuning into our interview with Cortana! Stay tuned for our next episode, where we will discuss collections of Cortana’s hidden features and Easter eggs!

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