In Microsoft's first-person shooter "Halo," the character Cortana is a female A.I. companion that guides you through the battlefield. In real life, she's about to become Microsoft's answer to Siri and Google Now. The Seattle software giant took to its 2014 Build conference to unveil its Cortana voice assistant, which will launch in beta alongside the Windows Phone 8.1 operating system. While it may sound very similar to its competition, Cortana does have some neat features exclusively for Windows Phone owners.
Cortana is powered by Bing, and the assistant uses your voice searches to store your preferences in categories like sports, food, travel and weather inside of her "notebook." This allows the app to give you more personalized results as you continue to use it.
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While Cortana's support for traditional voice commands didn't seem all too different from Siri or Google Now, the virtual assistant boasts some neat app integration. You can use Cortana to start a Skype call, add a TV show to your Hulu queue or pull up a specific friend's Facebook page, all with your voice alone.
Cortana gets to know what type of relationship you have with your most called contacts, and you can give her permission to let this "inner circle" call you during your set quiet hours.
Reminders and Detailed Searches
Cortana also supports text commands. For example, if you type "remind me to make dinner when I get home," Cortana will turn that request into a traditional location-based reminder. Like other voice assistants, Cortana can look up the weather, though the app takes things a bit further with the ability to switch between Fahrenheit and Celsius when you ask it to.
Cortana is supposedly voiced by Jen Taylor, who plays the Cortana character in the "Halo" series. However, the voice we heard at Build was a bit too robotic to distinguish, and sounded like a deeper-voiced version of Siri. Fans of the game can look forward to some fun interaction with Cortana; When Belfiore asked for info on the upcoming "Halo," she responded with "I'm quite certain you don't have proper security clearance for that information."