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Cortana comes to India; in public beta for Android and iOS


Microsoft has launched an update to its Windows 10 OS for PCs and mobile devices, which includes making available its digital personal assistant Cortana in India, Canada, Japan and Australia, reports NDTV. The company claims that Cortana has been customized to work with the Indian voice and accent and speech patterns, but is only available in English.

In India, Cortana has been designed to work with apps such as BookMyShow and Gmail, while features like booking a cab on Uber are available only in the US. Cortana also recognises Indian festivals and customs, remind the user of upcoming events and reschedule meetings. Cortana will work across the PC and phone, and is also integrated into Microsoft’s new browser Microsoft Edge, which replaces Internet Explorer, which was officially unveiled in January this year under the codename ‘Spartan’.

Cortana Australia features: Cortana can respond to a text message, look up the flight time, sing a song, aggregate Bing search results, calendar entries, contact and email details to provide results. According to Microsoft, the digital assistant, which has been named after an Artificial Intelligence character in its Halo game series, will get more personalised as one uses it more, since it will learn the user’s natural language patterns, interests and digital schedule.

Phone Companion bundle: In May, the company had also announced the availability of an app bundle called Phone Companion for the PC, which would let Windows 10 users install Cortana on Android and iOS devices. On launching the Companion, users would be able to set up their Windows, Android or iPhone. The bundle will include support for OneDrive, Office 365, Skype, OneNote and the Music app with Outlook. Changes made to Cortana’s Notebook will be visible across all devices. OneDrive will be able to store all photos taken on the mobile phone automatically, be visible in the Windows 10 PC Photos app. For Music, users can sync music from OneDrive, the PC, Android or iOS phones.

Cortana for Windows Phones and Microsoft Band: In July last year, the company announced that the beta version of Cortana for Windows Phone would be available to users in China and UK with the update, while users in India, Canada and Australia would have to be content with an alpha version. Since the Indian users would get the “alpha” update, they had to opt-in and select either the US or the UK version of Cortana, meaning that at that time, Indian users wouldn’t get any localised features. Note that in October 2015, at its Microsoft Devices event, Microsoft also launched a new wearable called the Microsoft Band, the activity tracker, with Cortana integration.

Digital assistants in the space:

– In October, Apple acquired Perceptio, a stealth mode UK based startup which developed tech to lets companies run artificial intelligence systems on smartphones without sharing much user data. In June it announced an update to iOS 9.0 as part of which, Siri would be able to source all the data from the user’s phone, including app data and user contacts, to make voice search better.

– In August, Facebook announced that it was testing a new personal assistant service called M, powered by artificial intelligence and supervised by humans. The company claimed that the assistant would be able to purchase items, get gifts delivered, book restaurants and travel arrangements, set appointments etc.

– In June, Google added a new feature to Google Now called Location Aware Search, that detected a user’s location and answered questions based on that data. In April, Google Now started displaying cards from apps like RunKeeper, Jawbone, Feedly and 67 other apps, after it started adding third party Android apps to Google Now cards in January.

With inputs from Shivangi Singh

Also read: Microsoft Build: Cross-platform apps, Office as a platform, IoT and virtual reality

Image Credit: Bhupinder Nayyar

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