Apple has Siri, Android has Google Now, and Windows finally has their own proprietary voice search assistant called “Cortana.” Modelled after a character from Microsoft’s Halo video game franchise, Cortana is set to launch with Windows 8.1 in April. Cortana will first become available on the Nokia Lumia phones and eventually be available cross-platform.
Cortana borrows features from Siri and Google Now, offering the search and discovery capabilities of Siri, as well as personalization and predictive search capabilities of Google Now. Since Microsoft doesn’t have as much information on its users as Google does, they make up for it by having Cortana literally get to know you.
On initial setup, Cortana takes the user through a series of questions designed to get to know them better and offer more personalized recommendations. Some of the questions include:
What are a couple of the most enjoyable parts of your everyday evenings?
When you think about food, what’s most important to you these days?
What are two of your main motivations for going out to an event/activity?
The entire process of setting up Cortana is seen for the first time in the video below, published by UnleashThePhones.com:
As seen in the video, users will be required to sign in with a Microsoft Account. Once signed in, pressing the Bing search button will bring up Cortana as the default search engine on the phone.
Cortana will be powered by Bing’s Satori knowledge repository and Foursquare’s location data, which Microsoft will be licensing. Cortana will reportedly provide “deep personalization” of experiences across multiple Microsoft devices, including smartphones, PCs, and Xbox One.
Cortana looks and sounds promising so far, but whether or not it will actually be as useful as either Siri or Google Now remains to be seen. We’ll have to wait and see when it launches this spring.