Microsoft’s plan to replace Siri with a younger model

13 Mar 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Cortana is going to invade Android and iOS.

Microsoft is doubling down on its Siri competitor, Cortana, first by boosting its intelligence via project “Einstein” and then with plans to release it on Apple and Android devices, according to Reuters. SEATTLE — Microsoft Inc. is working on an advanced version of its competitor to Apple’s Siri, using research from an artificial intelligence project called “Einstein.” Microsoft has been running its “personal assistant” Cortana on its Windows phones for a year, and will put the new version on the desktop with the arrival of Windows 10 this autumn.The battle of the virtual personal assistants could be about to heat up, with reports that Microsoft’s Cortana is set to make the jump to Android and iOS. Later, Cortana will be available as a standalone app, usable on phones and tablets powered by Apple Inc’s iOS and Google Inc’s Android, people familiar with the project said. “This kind of technology, which can read and understand email, will play a central role in the next roll out of Cortana, which we are working on now for the fall time frame,” said Eric Horvitz, managing director of Microsoft Research and a part of the Einstein project, in an interview at the company’s Redmond, Washington, headquarters. In an area of the market where Microsoft has struggled for some time – smartphones – its voice assistant is widely regarded by many to be the best of the three.

Going one step further than Apple’s Siri, which can answer questions and set reminders, Cortana adds context to these – reminding you to leave for the airport if you have a flight to catch for example. They represent a new front in CEO Satya Nadella’s battle to sell Microsoft software on any device or platform, rather than trying to force customers to use Windows. The concept of ‘artificial intelligence’ is broad, and mobile phones and computers already show dexterity with spoken language and sifting through emails for data, for instance. For instance, Redmond already sells its Outlook email service and Office suite to iOS and Android owners, allowing more people access to the same content they use at home or in the office. Still, Microsoft believes its work on speech recognition, search and machine learning will let it transform its digital assistant into the first intelligent ‘agent’ which anticipates users needs.

However it does follow a plan laid out by Microsoft chief Satya Nadella, who has spoken in the past of branching out some of Microsoft’s services to users on other platforms. Shortly after Satya Nadella was made CEO in February 2014, Microsoft abruptly announced that its industry-standard Office suite would be opened up to the iPad. This has already begun to happen with Office, the company’s productivity suite, with the Word, Excel and PowerPoint apps going free on Apple’s iOS for the first time. Google’s mobile app, which doesn’t have a name like Siri or Cortana, already offers some limited predictive information ‘cards’ based on what it thinks the user wants to know. The Office Assistant nicknamed ‘Clippy’ suffered a similar fate a few years later. “We’re defining the competitive landscape… of who can provide the most supportive services that make life easier, keep track of things, that complement human memory in a way that helps us get things done,” said Horvitz.

Outside his door stands “The Assistant”, a monitor showing a woman’s face that can converse with visitors, has access to Horvitz’s calendar and can book meetings. On his desktop, Horvitz runs ‘Lifebrowser’, a program that stores everything from appointments to photos and uses machine learning to identify the important moments. A keyword search for his university professor instantly brings up photos and video from the last time they met. “Freak” is the latest security vulnerability to wash across the Internet.

Google’s latest mobile app uses the predictive power generated from billions of searches to work out what a user is doing, what they are interested in, and sending relevant information, such as when a favorite sports team is playing next. Apple is also pushing Siri, which uses Microsoft’s Bing search engine in the background, into new areas with its CarPlay and HomeKit platforms, as well as the recently unveiled Apple Watch.

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