Cortana


'Cortana' Articles

Microsoft Releases 'Play My Emails' Text-to-Speech Feature for Cortana in the iOS Outlook App

Alongside a slate of announcements made this morning, Microsoft has launched a new text-to-speech feature for Cortana in the Outlook app for iOS devices. With this feature, called "Play My Emails," the Outlook app uses Cortana's natural language interactions and AI to read out your latest emails. Microsoft is aiming this feature at users who want to catch up on their inboxes while doing something else, like driving or working at their desks. Cortana starts by summarizing how many emails are new in the user's Focused Inbox in the last 24 hours, and if there have been any changes to their upcoming daily schedule, thanks to integration with Outlook's calendar. Cortana also uses Microsoft Graph to identity the sender of each email in relationship to the user, so it's easier to know the context of the message without looking at the screen. Because of these abilities and more, Microsoft said that Play My Emails is more than just a text-to-speech update, but a way to have a natural conversation with Cortana. Cortana synthesizes the information in the message header and meta data and marries it with the insights about you and information from apps and services that power Office 365. This provides a more meaningful and contextual readout. The Play My Emails experience is like having a conversation with your personal assistant. Play My Emails is launching today to customers in the United States for the Outlook app on iOS devices, and later it will launch on

Siri on HomePod Asked 800 Questions and Answered 74% Correctly vs. Just 52% Earlier This Year

Apple analyst Gene Munster of Loup Ventures recently tested the accuracy of digital assistants on four smart speakers by asking Alexa, Siri, Google Assistant, and Cortana a series of 800 questions each on the Amazon Echo, HomePod, Google Home Mini, and Harmon Kardon Invoke respectively. The results indicate that Siri on the HomePod correctly answered 74.6 percent of the questions, a dramatic improvement over the speaker's 52.3 percent success rate when Loup Ventures asked it a similar 782 questions in December 2017. Siri on the HomePod remained less accurate than Google Assistant on the Google Home, which correctly answered 87.9 percent of questions in the test. Meanwhile, Alexa on the Echo and Cortana on the Invoke trailed Siri on the HomePod, correctly answering 72.5 percent and 63.4 percent of questions in the test. Munster attributed the HomePod's improved accuracy to "the enabling of more domains in the past year," as a series of software updates in recent months have enabled the speaker to make and receive phone calls, schedule calendar events, set multiple timers, search for songs by lyrics, and more. Methodology Loup Ventures says it asked each smart speaker the same 800 questions, and they were graded on two metrics: whether the query was understood and whether a correct response was provided. The question set was designed to "comprehensively test a smart speaker's ability and utility" based on five categories:Local – Where is the nearest coffee shop? Commerce – Can you order me more paper towels? Navigation – How do I get to uptown on the

Microsoft Releases Redesigned Cortana App for iOS

Microsoft today released an updated Cortana app for iOS, which features an overhauled interface and new features like music and podcasts support. For those unfamiliar with Cortana, it is Microsoft's version of Siri or Alexa, an AI-based personal assistant that can answer questions and complete small tasks. Microsoft has been testing the revamped version of Cortana since October. The new interface is focused on conversational experiences with Cortana, plus it includes support for music and podcast suggestions, and a focus on setting reminders, timers, and meetings. Cortana 3.0 offers up a new conversational experience when asking questions, and there is a new dedicated spot for setting up and managing Cortana devices. Microsoft's full release notes for the update are below:What's new: · A new conversational experience for answers · A new place to manage and set up your Cortana devices · Listen to music and podcasts on the go · Stay on top of your tasks managing meetings, emails, reminders and To Do on the go · Join your next Skype or Teams meeting by simply asking CortanaMicrosoft's Cortana app for iOS can be downloaded from the App Store for free. [Direct Link

Microsoft Testing Revamped Version of Cortana App for iOS

Microsoft is testing a version of its Cortana app for iOS and Android devices that features a major interface overhaul and new features, according to Windows Central. The updated app, which is being tested by beta testers, features a user interface that's focused on conversational experiences with Cortana, along with support for music and podcast suggestions, and a focus on setting reminders, timers, and meetings. For those unfamiliar with Cortana, it is Microsoft's personal assistant, available on Microsoft devices and other devices through iOS and Android apps. It is equivalent to Apple's Siri, Samsung's Bixby, and Google's Google Assistant. Full release notes for the new features in the current beta are below:- An update to the UI enabling conversational experiences with Cortana and a new place to manage and set up your Cortana devices - Listen to music and podcasts on the go. Just ask Cortana to play your favorite tunes and podcasts with Spotify, iHeartRadio, and TuneIn on your phone or through a paired Bluetooth device - Stay organized and on task. Set reminders, timers and create meetings with your voice - Join your next Skype or Teams meeting by simply asking Cortana. You can also manage your calendar or send a quick email by voiceFollowing the beta testing period for the app, the new features with the redesigned interface will roll out to the official Cortana for iOS app. Cortana for iOS can be downloaded from the App Store for free. [Direct Link]

Microsoft's Virtual Assistant Gains Alternative 'Cortana' Activation Command

Microsoft is giving users of its Cortana virtual assistant another way to activate it with their voice. As reported by The Verge, owners of the first Cortana-integrated Invoke speaker can now summon the assistant using just "Cortana" rather than the typical "Hey, Cortana" phrase, although that continues to work as well. The alteration is expected to trickle down to Cortana for iOS in the near future. Microsoft hasn't offered a reason for the new option, but probably doesn't need to, given that many users will find "Cortana" easier to say, just as Amazon's "Alexa" is on supporting devices. Alexa users can also choose an alternative "Echo" invocation, but owners of Apple devices must use the phrase "Hey, Siri" (and its equivalent in other languages) to get the attention of Apple's digital assistant. Apple has never indicated it will offer a way to customize the "Hey, Siri" invocation – perhaps because it's not technologically viable, given the way Siri listens for the activation phrase via an energy-preserving coprocessor. But the ability to do so could theoretically help users specify which device their request is directed at when multiple Apple devices are present ("Hey, HomePod," for example). Aside from offering a little more personalization, the option could also help device owners prevent accidental or prank requests from other sources, like TV ads, podcasts, and so

Microsoft Planning to Integrate Cortana Into Outlook Apps for iOS and Android

Microsoft is planning to integrate its AI assistant Cortana directly into the Outlook mobile apps on iOS and Android, according to people familiar with the company's plans speaking with The Verge. Cortana currently offers various email-related actions and commands on supported devices, but the assistant can not be called up within Outlook on smartphones. Image by Tom Warren via The Verge With the addition of Cortana, Outlook users will be able to hear their emails read aloud and respond to them with their voice. Details are still scarce, but the sources said that command phrases will include asking Cortana "What's my email," or asking to read recent emails from a specific contact. The Cortana integration will allow users of the popular mobile email client to listen to and respond to emails with their voice. This will be particularly useful during car journeys, and Microsoft is testing Cortana integration directly within Outlook mobile that will work over Bluetooth and read messages aloud. Users will be able to ask Cortana phrases like “what’s my email,” or just to read messages from specific contacts. The most recent Cortana-related iOS news saw the AI assistant's iOS app gain native iPad support last month. Prior to that, Microsoft updated Cortana's iPhone app last October with a revamped interface and improved performance. Microsoft and Google each have apps dedicated to their AI assistants on the iOS App Store, aimed as competitors to Siri. The main limitation of the non-Apple assistants is that they lack system-wide functionality on iPhones and iPads, and can

Microsoft's Cortana Assistant Now Available on iPad

Microsoft today updated its Cortana app for iOS with native iPad support. The design looks essentially the same as the iPhone version, but with an interface optimized for the larger 7.9-inch to 12.9-inch screen sizes of Apple's tablets. The release notes also mention that Cortana now opens 20 percent faster:What's new: Introducing a brand-new Cortana for iPad design. Enjoy an exclusive layout and interface for your iPad. Cortana now launches 20% faster! Enjoy a lightning-fast experience.Like rivals Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant, Cortana is a digital assistant that can set reminders, schedule calendar appointments, respond to queries, and provide other information through machine learning techniques. Apple only allows third-party assistants to function within their apps, however, limiting their usefulness versus Siri on iPhone and iPad. For example, Cortana can't be invoked with a voice command when an iOS device is locked. Nevertheless, iPad users now have one more assistant to choose from alongside Siri and Alexa. Cortana is available for free on the App Store.

Cortana for iOS Gains New Look, Faster Reminder Creation and Improved Performance

Microsoft today updated its Cortana app for iOS, improving the way the AI assistant works on iOS devices. Designed to compete with Siri, Cortana is a personal assistant that can do things like set reminders, schedule calendar appointments, answer queries, and offer up information you're interested in through machine learning techniques. Today's iOS app update introduces a revamped look that Microsoft says offers a simpler, better user experience. It's easier and faster to create reminders using the new interface, and there's a redesigned profile and settings page for managing preferences. Cortana features improved performance when it comes to page transitions and app responsiveness, and there are also general bug fixes.We are bringing major updates to make Cortana a better assistant for you: - A fresh new look with a simpler and improved user experience - It's now easier and faster to create reminders to help you stay on top of things - Redesigned profile and settings page to easily manage your preferences - Improved performance particularly faster page transitions and app responsiveness - Regular bug fixes and performance improvementsThe Cortana app for iOS devices first launched in December of 2015. Cortana is built into Windows devices as well, so customers who use Windows and are accustomed to Cortana may prefer to use the iOS app for reminders and other tasks. Cortana can be downloaded from the App Store for free. [Direct Link]

iPhone Users Will Be Able to Say 'Hey Cortana, Open Alexa' in Future

Amazon and Microsoft today jointly announced that Alexa and Cortana will soon be able to communicate with each other. Microsoft said the collaboration will allow access to Alexa via Cortana on Windows 10 PCs later this year, and via the Cortana app for iOS and Android at an unspecified point in the future. Similarly, users will be able to access Cortana on Alexa-enabled devices like the Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, and Echo Show. iPhone users should eventually be able to open the Cortana app and say "hey Cortana, open Alexa," to access Amazon's virtual assistant. Alexa can be used to shop and manage orders on Amazon, ask a variety of questions, stream music and audiobooks, check the news and weather, and many other tasks. However, iPhone users won't be able to say "hey Cortana, open Alexa" from the Home screen, or when the device is locked. Apple only allows third-party virtual assistants to function within their apps, so accessing Alexa via Cortana will be a lot more cumbersome than simply using Siri. For a complete virtual assistant experience, iPhone users could also say "hey Siri, open the Cortana app" and then say "hey Cortana, open Alexa." Alexa can already be used in the Amazon app on iOS [Direct Link], while Cortana has been available on the App Store [Direct Link] since December

Harman Kardon Product Page Reveals Design of Cortana-Based Smart Speaker

Harman Kardon has teased its upcoming Cortana-integrated connected smart speaker with a product page that revealed a little more about the device's design and features. The web page for the Invoke speaker appears to have been removed since it was spotted by Thurrott.com this morning, but it offered a better glimpse at the device's sloping cylindrical design, which appears to fall somewhere in between the Amazon Echo and Google Home. The light ring at the top of the speaker will be familiar to users of Microsoft's Cortana voice-activated assistant, while pictures suggest touch-based controls could involve rotating the upper ridge. Elsewhere, the mesh grille indicates the device's expected ability to project high-quality audio over 360 degrees. Perhaps the most notable feature of the Invoke speaker is voice calling, which the Echo and Google Home do not currently support, although the Harman Kardon device does appear to rely on Skype for this capability. No pricing was given on the product page, but the Invoke speaker is being marketed as a premium alternative to its rivals, so it's unlikely to be cheap. The device is expected to launch this fall. Apple is rumored to be close to launching its own voice-driven smart speaker with Siri functionality and AirPlay support. The device is said to have a Mac Pro-like concave top with built-in controls and could possibly run a modified version of iOS. The product could be unveiled as early as next month at WWDC. Amazon is also said to be working on a next-generation Echo with a built-in screen and phone calling

Cortana for iPhone is Now Faster and Freshly Redesigned

Microsoft today updated Cortana for iPhone with a significant redesign that has been available to Android users since December. As noted by Paul Thurrott, version 2.0 of the app is more responsive with redesigned calling, texting, and reminders and more immersive full-page answers with quicker page transitions. Cortana's mobile redesign launched on Android in December Cortana is Microsoft's equivalent of Siri for Windows PCs and smartphones, Xbox, iOS, and Android. The personal assistant enables users to ask questions, check the weather, schedule calendar appointments, set reminders, track packages, look up sports scores, and many other tasks that Siri is capable of. Cortana is free on the App Store [Direct Link] for

Microsoft Opens Cortana Virtual Assistant to Third-Party Hardware Makers

Microsoft has announced it is making its Cortana voice assistant AI available to third-party device makers, with third-party developers also set to get access to the platform for integrating into their services on Cortana-powered devices. The company's approach is based on two software kits currently available for preview: A Skills Kit that allows developers to build apps that can be called up and controlled via Cortana using voice commands, and a Cortana Devices SDK, which enables third-party hardware manufacturers to bake in the voice-activated AI to new devices. Premium audio company Harman Kardon is set to become one of the first device makers to make use of the SDK in a new wireless speaker, set to debut early next year. In a short video released by Microsoft, the speaker looks vaguely similar to an Amazon Echo, but appears to feature a display at the top that lights up when Cortana is summoned. Given its long history of working with OEMs, Microsoft's decision to license out its Cortana AI to third party device makers could prove an adroit move in a smart speaker space currently dominated by Google and Amazon, both of which have released own-branded devices. Just last week, Microsoft unveiled plans to compete with smart devices like Google Home and Amazon Echo by developing a HomeHub feature for Windows 10 PCs that enables Cortana to be summoned from the lock screen and provide useful information on request. The Redmond-based company is also planning to enable Cortana integration with fridges, toasters, thermostats, and other Internet of Things (IoT)

Redesign Coming for Cortana on iOS With App to Debut in the U.K.

Microsoft has announced that Cortana for iOS is coming to the U.K. and that the company is readying a significant design overhaul based on user feedback. Cortana is to Windows what Siri is to macOS, but Microsoft's voice-activated virtual assistant has been available on iOS in the United States for precisely a year now, allowing PC users with Apple devices to sync their reminders, notifications and so on between the two platforms. Reminders that Travel with You: Cortana has your back, seamlessly keeping track of the things you need to remember across all the platforms you use her. Set a reminder on your PC and get it on your mobile phone. Never Miss a Phone Call: In a meeting and can’t answer your phone? With the Cortana app, get a missed call alert on your Windows 10 PC and let Cortana send a text back letting them know you’ll call them later – all without leaving your PC. Optimized for Mobile: Designed specifically for your mobile life with quick action buttons and voice to get what you need quickly, a streamlined design and widgets for Android and iOS.Along with the iOS app's imminent U.K. debut, Microsoft took the opportunity to announce an upcoming overhaul for Cortana on mobile that replaces the existing design with a cleaner, simpler interface, and introduces quick actions for putting frequently used functions front and center. Checking things like calendars, news, and weather, and setting and viewing reminders will become accessible with a tap on the main screen. As well as clearer full-page answers to queries, Microsoft says the updated Cortana app

Microsoft Hails 'Historic Achievement' in Speech Recognition Technology

Researchers at Microsoft claim to have created a new speech recognition technology that transcribes conversational speech as well as a human does (via The Verge). The system's word error rate is reportedly 5.9 percent, which is about equal to professional transcribers asked to work on the same recordings, according to Microsoft. Microsoft researchers from the Speech & Dialog research group (Image: Allison Linn) "We've reached human parity," said chief speech scientist Xuedong Huang in a statement, calling the milestone "an historic achievement". To reach the milestone, the team used Microsoft’s Computational Network Toolkit, a homegrown system for deep learning that the research team has made available on GitHub via an open source license. The system uses neural network technology that groups similar words together, which allows the models to generalize efficiently from word to word. The neural networks draw on large amounts of data called training sets to teach the transcribing computers to recognize syntactical patterns in the sounds. Microsoft plans to use the technology in Cortana, its personal voice assistant in Windows and Xbox One, as well as in speech-to-text transcription software. But the technology still has a long way to go before it can claim to master meaning (semantics) and contextual awareness - key characteristics of everyday language use that need to be grasped for Siri-like personal assistants to process requests and act upon them in a helpful way. "We are moving away from a world where people must understand computers to a world

VMware Announces Fusion and Fusion Pro 8.5 With Sierra and Windows 10 Anniversary Support

VMware today announced Fusion 8.5, Fusion Pro 8.5, Workstation Player 12.5 and Workstation Pro 12.5, the latest versions of its visualization software for running Windows on a Mac without using Boot Camp. Fusion and Fusion Pro 8.5 come with macOS Sierra support while both Fusion and Workstation suites come with Windows 10 Anniversary support. Windows 10 Anniversary is a large upgrade to Microsoft's operating system, making Cortana smarter, allowing interactions with Android and Windows phones, more desktop apps and games in the Windows Store, a dark theme, Windows Edge extensions, click-to-play Flash and more. Both Fusion 8.5 and Workstation 12.5 include Windows 10 Anniversary support and Windows 10 server support in addition to various bug fixes and performance improvements. The Fusion suite's Sierra support includes Siri integration and support for tabbed VM windows. VMware also announced that it's giving away 20 Oculus Rift headsets to the general public. Entrants must tweet (using #FusionLove) a short video of themselves telling a story of how Fusion has helped them accomplished something. Meanwhile, registered attendees of VMworld 2016 will receive 18-months of Fusion or Workstation. Current VMware Fusion 8.0 and Workstation 12.0 users can receive the 8.5 and 12.5 upgrades for free. However, users of pre-8.0 versions of Fusion and Fusion Pro can upgrade for $49 and $119 respectively, while users of pre-12.0 versions of Workstation Player and Workstation Pro can upgrade for $79 and $149 respectively. Upgrade pricing eligibility extends back to users of

Microsoft Launches Official 'Cortana' App for iOS and Android Devices

Microsoft today officially launched its virtual assistant Cortana as a downloadable app for iOS and Android platforms (via Business Insider). Similar to Apple's Siri personal assistant, Cortana allows Windows users to set reminders, preview the weather, and answer basic questions thanks to integrated internet search abilities. Other Cortana for iOS and Android features include the following: •Set and get location and time reminders across your PC and phone. •Track packages, flights, scores, stocks, and other important info across your PC and phone. •Use Cortana’s Notebook to view, edit and manage your interests •Get information and answers to all kinds of questions. If you’re looking for it, Cortana can help find it. •Have a little fun in your down time — ask anything, get jokes, and much more. Microsoft detailed a few features for Cortana at Business Insider's Ignition Conference in New York City, including abilities like asking Cortana for help with your voice without having to open up the app. Unfortunately, most of those features won't be available to iOS users due to certain developer restrictions that fence off Cortana from becoming fully integrated into iOS. On the other hand, a few Android smartphones will gain a leg up on the iOS version of Cortana thanks to a partnership between Microsoft and start-up company Cyanogen, which runs a custom version of the OS on select Android devices. With Cyanogen software, Android users will have essentially all of the abilities Windows Phone users have over Cortana, including being able to speak to the personal

Microsoft Begins Sign-Ups for 'Cortana for iOS' Beta Program

Microsoft this week began the sign-up process that will let a few iOS users test out an early beta version of its Cortana personal assistant ahead of its wide release sometime next year (via The Verge). Specifically, the company said it's looking for a "limited number of people" in the United States and China, with updates rolling out over the next few months to tweak features and provide any fixes to bugs found by the beta participants. In the spirit of the Windows Insider Program, we’re looking for a limited number of people to get their hands on an early version of the app. It’s important to keep in mind that this is the first public release of the Cortana for iOS beta. And that for now, Cortana for iOS is only available in the U.S. and China. Over the coming months, we’ll continue to deliver frequent updates to the app to expand the features and functionality. The company reiterated that Windows is where Cortana "really shines," thanks to a few hardware-specific features, but promises that iOS users can expect a robust personal assistant that makes a "perfect companion" to the Windows experience. Those who are interested in testing out Cortana for iOS can complete a short survey on Microsoft's website to possibly become one of the limited access users of the beta, who will begin receiving download links in their email over the next few

New Study Finds Siri More Distracting Than Google Now While Driving

Siri and other voice-activated systems can cause potentially unsafe mental distractions lasting several seconds while driving, according to a new research study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Siri's score of 3.4 on the five-point scale is considered more distracting than Google Now's 3.0 score, but less distracting than Microsoft Cortana, which received a 3.8 rating. AAA's mental distraction rankings also included vehicles, ranging from the least distracting Chevy Equinox at 2.4 to the Mazda 6 at 4.6, which is nearly the highest level of cognitive distraction. The study found that mental distractions can persist for as long as 27 seconds after using hands-free or voice-activated systems, as drivers readjust to the task of driving.“The lasting effects of mental distraction pose a hidden and pervasive danger that would likely come as a surprise to most drivers,” said Peter Kissinger, President and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “The results indicate that motorists could miss stop signs, pedestrians and other vehicles while the mind is readjusting to the task of driving.” Researchers found that potentially unsafe levels of mental distraction can last for as long as 27 seconds after completing a distracting task in the worst-performing systems studied. At the 25 MPH speed limit in the study, drivers traveled the length of nearly three football fields during this time. When using the least distracting systems, drivers remained impaired for more than 15 seconds after completing a task.AAA's mental distraction rankings while driving are broken

VMware Launches Fusion 8 and Fusion 8 Pro With Windows 10, OS X El Capitan and Cortana Support

VMware today launched Fusion 8 and Fusion 8 Pro, the latest versions of its virtualization software for running Windows on a Mac without rebooting. Fusion 8 and Fusion 8 Pro include full support for Windows 10, OS X El Capitan and the latest Retina Macs, in addition to always-on access to Microsoft Cortana. Fusion 8 and Fusion 8 Pro support DirectX 10 and OpenGL 3.3 for up to 65% faster graphics, alongside compatibility with USB 3.0 and multiple monitors with different DPIs. The virtual machine platform also delivers full 64-bit support with up to 16 vCPUs, 64GB RAM and an 8TB hard drive for a single virtual machine. Fusion 8 and Fusion 8 Pro are optimized for the latest Macs, including the iMac with Retina 5K Display and 12-inch MacBook. DirectX 10 support enables Mac users to run Windows virtual machines with native resolution on a 5K display, with USB-C support and Force Touch pass-through also in tow for the latest MacBooks. Fusion 8 Pro has additional advanced features and improvements, including the ability to connect to VMware vCloud Air, IPv6 support for both bridged networks and IPv6-to-IPv4 Network Address Translation (NAT), improved integration with VMware vSphere and support for several new Linux distributions and other operating systems. Fusion 8 and Fusion 8 Pro are available today for $79.99 and $199.99 respectively through the VMware Online Store, while existing Fusion 6 or 7 customers can upgrade to Fusion 8 for $49.99 or Fusion 8 Pro for $119.99. Parallels Desktop for Mac users also receive 40% off Fusion 8 and Fusion 8

Parallels Desktop 11 for Mac Released With Windows 10 and Cortana Support

Parallels today announced the release of Parallels Desktop 11 for Mac with dual support for OS X El Capitan, Windows 10 and always-on access to Microsoft's intelligent personal assistant Cortana. Parallels Desktop 11 for Mac Business Edition and Parallels Desktop for Mac Pro Edition were also released for business customers, developers, designers and power users. Parallels Desktop 11 for Mac is virtualization software that enables users to use OS X El Capitan and Windows 10 side by side without rebooting, including full support for Windows and Mac apps. The software includes a setup assistant for switching from PC to Mac, one-click optimization settings, Linux and Google Chrome support, advanced security features and more. The latest version of Parallels Desktop also features Quick Look for Windows documents, Travel Mode for temporarily shutting down resource-intensive services to extend battery life, location services in Windows apps and easy upgrading from Windows 7 or Windows 8.1. Performance improvements include up to 50% faster boot and shut down times, up to 15% longer battery life and up to 20% faster tasks. Parallels Desktop 11 for Mac is $79.99 with a free 14-day trial available, while customers with Parallels Desktop 9 or newer can upgrade for $49.99. Parallels Desktop 11 for Mac Business Edition and Pro Edition both retail for $99.99 per year with faster 64GB virtual RAM / 16 vCPUs for each virtual machine and extended premium 24/7 phone and email support.