You remember the time when we weren’t able to talk to our phones and sometimes you thought having a real-life protocol droid could be helpful in numerous ways, but it’s anyone’s guess as to when or if they could become reality? In Star Wars this was reality already, long before we had something like this in the real world. Messages are being transferred via Holography and little droids, everyone made for a specific reason, accompany the characters throughout the movie. However, the tech world was not yet ready for things like this and so it was a nice dream what the future could bring.
Whether this was a good time or not, Apple changed this with their invention of Siri. Back in October 2011 the company announced Siri, the worlds first personal assistant directly on your smartphone. It was possible to pull out of your pocket your phone and ask it some questions or tell it to add a meeting in your calendar. Today this is kind of a must-have feature for every operating system. All three major players have one, Microsoft has Cortana, Apple uses Siri and Google uses Google Now.
While Cortana and Siri are kind of embodying a ‘person’ which follows you everywhere and always assists you with your needs, Google goes in a different direction with a kind of intelligent and smart way to search. If you ask Cortana or Siri to sing you a song it will do that without hesitation, however Google Now will simply start to search on the internet what she can find about this topic. Of course also Google Now has some entertaining things you can ask her, for example to tell you a joke, flip a coin or to do a barrel role and yet I think that it is not as personal as Siri or Cortana, I even think that Google doesn’t want to make it that personal.
Apple and Microsoft on the other hand are clearly embodying a person with their personal assistants. Microsoft’s personal assistant was even existing already when they announced Cortana together with Windows Phone 8.1 back in August 2014. In fact it was one of the main characters of their very popular Halo shooter row which gets regularly released for their Xbox console. For the reason that Cortana was existing already and there was coming something in your mind if you heard the name, it makes this assistant even more personal.
So it might have been a good strategy from Microsoft in first place to choose this name for their personal assistant though crucial was of course the ability to talk with the assistant and getting adequate answers to your questions. That alone can be very challenging already, but Cortana learned a lot in the last two years and while we didn’t even realize those changes always because there was nothing changed on the front end it was always discovered from time to time and impressed it’s users. Also if I am not a daily user of the personal assistant it’s still fascinating what you can do with it by now.
While being able to recognize questions and giving adequate answers is one thing, it’s another to have something which can think on it’s own and supplements the user in things he is not thinking of etc. That’s called an AI and that’s where Tay comes in. Tay was introduced by Microsoft about half a year ago, back in March and shortly after it’s release it was pulled again. Tay was a simple Twitter profile and basically looked like every Twitter profile. However the person behind this profile which answered the questions, personal messages and comments from people all around the globe actually was an AI, an artificial intelligence. Not controlled by humans but thinking and acting entirely on it’s own and even able to learn.
Tay was such an AI released as kind of a young human, new to this world which has then been educated by various Twitter users. We all know the result, Tay was pulled for being rude, racist and sexist but it clearly showed that such AIs are just behind the corner. Personal assistants on phones may be the first gadgets to become this intelligent to be able to learn from you and help you where you can proceed, but in fact this will have great effects on our world since more and more things which have to be done by humans currently can be done by such AIs then.
Cortana was the most important feature which Microsoft had announced with Windows Phone 8.1 back in 2014. By now the personal assistant is present on Xbox consoles, Windows PC’s and Tablets, Windows Phones and is available as an app for all other smartphone / tablet operating systems. At this time it is still possible to write down a list of supported voice commands for Microsoft’s assistant. However I think we are coming to a point where this will not be possible anymore, simply because you are talking to a human like AI which is not only reacting to specific commands but more general to almost everything you want to talk about with her.
To say it in the words of Cortana, I am ‘bouncy’ about what’s next for the personal assistant from Microsoft also because I think that the next big step is not far away anymore. What do our readers think on that, is development really that progressive already that we can talk about something like this? Feel free to drop me a comment below with your thoughts on this topic and stay tuned for more Microsoft related news in the future.
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