Cortana, the famous AI from Halo, will soon step into the real world as Microsoft's answer to Apple's vaunted Siri personal assistant technology.
I don't know if Apple's Siri is quite all it was cracked up to be prior to launch but it is pretty cool, and like it or not yammering at your phone is the way of the future. So Microsoft is pulling a familiar name out of its bag of tricks for its Windows Phone operating system: Cortana.
Cortana is relevant to gamers because (as I probably don't need to explain) it's the name of the AI in the Halo series who serves as an assistant and informational gatekeeper to the Master Chief. The app actually first saw the light of day back in June as "zCortana," the "z" indicating that it was a test build, but it didn't really attract any attention; since then, however, a couple of well-placed sources have indicated that Microsoft has big plans for its Siri competitor.
In July, outgoing CEO Steve Ballmer said, "Our UI will be deeply personalized, based on the advanced, almost magical, intelligence in our cloud that learns more and more over time about people and the world. Our shell will natively support all of our essential services, and will be great at responding seamlessly to what people ask for, and even anticipating what they need before they ask for it."
A couple of weeks later, Bing Senior Director Stefan Weitz described Siri and Google Now as having "a fairly shallow understanding of the world" and told CNet, "We could come out with something now like them, but it wouldn't be state of the art. It's too constrained to be an agent now. We are not shipping until we have something more revolutionary than evolutionary."
Of course, it's just a code name for an app that may very well be changed to something more "Microsoft-ish" by the time it launches ("Bing Assistant Device" seems about par for the course) but for the moment, it's a cool, fun idea that, if put to proper use, might even score the company a little bit of lasting hipness. That's something that Windows Phones could certainly use right now.