For months the tech press has been writing about the imminent arrival of Microsoft’s answer to Siri: Cortana. The virtual assistant is modeled on a character in Microsoft’s “Halo” game. Microsoft has not acknowledged Cortana or said anything public about Cortana.
Right now Cortana is a codename and it remains to be seen what the digital assistant is ultimately called. Reportedly “she” will soon be introduced with the 8.1 update of the Windows Phone software.
Unlike Siri Cortana will operate across devices and screens, including on the PC and Xbox. According to sources who spoke to The Verge, Cortana (or its equivalent) “wil replace the built-in Bing search feature, which is currently launched through a dedicated hardware key” on Windows Phones.
Here’s another difference with Siri or Google Now: the avatar. Cortana will be a more fully realized version of a digital assistant persona. She will have a face and a body unlike the disembodied voice of Siri or the nameless assistant of Google’s Voice Search and Google Now.
Behind Cortana will be sophisticated machine learning and Bing’s “Satori” back-end technology. Cortana will be the “face” of a new “service-enabled shell” powering all of Microsoft’s devices. That will enable “deep personalization” and device integration.
According to various reports, Cortana will be introduced first on Windows Phones in April. Beyond the fact that she has a face (and a body), Cortana will need to outperform Siri and Google Now to be a meaningful differentiator. Microsoft apparently believes that “she” can and will.
The video below featuring Cortana, from her Halo “death scene,” gives you a sense of her voice and personality. Microsoft will probably have to put some more clothes on her before her public unveiling however.