Of all Microsoft’s innovations over the last few years, it is without doubt that Cortana is among the most beloved. Though she only made her way to Windows Phone as a feature rather recently, Cortana has nonetheless had a large impact on the public consciousness. Having more personality than Siri and more utility than Google Now, Cortana is nothing less than an excellent digital assistant, provided she is used correctly.
Microsoft has paid homage to this popularity, choosing to make their digital assistant the latest to be featured in its ‘People’ series, profiling people of note. Dealing with both the video-game back story of the concept as well as the current implementation across Windows devices, the piece draws a clear narrative in the evolution of Cortana from idea to reality.
As Frank O’Connor, Franchise Development Director at 343 Industries says,
“Cortana very literally thinks like a person, but she does it at a tremendously faster speed. Her morality, her sense of humor and emotions are human. They’re real, and they’re ostensibly organic. Cortana is just as dedicated to the defense of humanity as the Master Chief, but her methods are much more subtle, long-term and intellectual, rather than action-driven.”
Moving this forward is what proved to be a real challenge. Taking the concept of an advanced human-like AI and shoehorning it into the low-power chips of today’s mobile handsets proved not to be a step too far for developers however. As Susan Hendrick, principle program manager lead for Windows Phone, elaborates,
“We took pieces of Cortana’s personality, and we applied them. We made her more confident. We made her a little bit more witty. We dialed up a couple of her personality traits. The worst thing we could do is create a personality that’s watered down”
These attributes especially spoke true to Jen Taylor, voice actor both for the video-game and mobile incarnations of Cortana. Having voiced the character for over a decade, Taylor has perhaps one of the best insights into the what makes Cortana successful,
“We can’t put as much attitude from the game in the phone, because you wouldn’t want to ask her any questions. If Cortana was constantly telling you to ‘shut up, figure it out yourself,’ you wouldn’t want to listen to that. She’s the happy, helpful, less snarky version of the game Cortana”
Based on feedback from professional secretaries across the globe, Cortana is noted for her wit. As Microsoft moves to improve the functionality of its other services however, Cortana is receiving special attention, gaining new abilities with every passing month, along with new interactions. As Bing becomes more of a feature rather than a service, Cortana is following the same path, with the eventual goal being for her phone incarnation to match the wit, poise and popularity of her video-game self.
Though Microsoft has a considerable distance yet to travel, the gap is closing with every passing month. Windows Phone owners have a lot to look forward to in the coming future. Check out the full piece here.
What is your favorite Cortana interaction? Let us know in the comments below.