Microsoft’s upcoming personal assistant app for Windows phones is codenamed “Cortana”. Yes, that Cortana. The inextricably sexy hologram AI from Bungie’s Halo series will possibly be making an appearance as the updated version of Windows’ TellMe speech recognition technology for mobile, going head-to-head with Apple’s Siri and Google Now. The real question is how much like Halo’s Cortana could Microsoft’s new technology end up?
In July, ex-CEO Steve Balmer 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."
On the one hand, this may simply be a fun codename for an app that will ultimately be named something ridiculously not hype like Bing Adequate Voice Search or something. On the other hand, Microsoft has been quietly developing several parallel technologies that could leave techies and gamers alike satiated with a personal assistant that is as intuitive as a real person and provides a host to navigate between Microsoft’s multiple platforms like Windows Home, Mobile, and Xbox.
At the heart of ‘Cortana’ lies a couple Microsoft projects that may provide insight into how close Microsoft can really get to recreating Master Chief’s hetero life-mate and deus ex plot device. First, we have the strides being made at Microsoft’s research division, aptly named... Microsoft Research. Microsoft Research has been hard at work improving and implementing their Deep Neural Network mathematical models and algorithms into their speech recognition and search capabilities. The technology is based on Artificial Neural Network research that expresses low-circuit functions within the human brain as mathematical models. Skynet be damned.The technology is promising. In its debut a year ago it’s implementation led to a significant increase in efficiency and a reduction in errors in Microsoft’s Audio Visual Indexing service.
If that isn’t enough to convince you, Satori might. Satori is the first step on the path to Buddhist enlightenment. It is also an information repository that has been patiently cataloguing all known human knowledge (well, on the internet at least), for the last 3.5 years.
Microsoft senior director of Bing Steven Weitz explains Satori like this:
"Satori is a self-learning system that is running every day and learning more, adding 28,000 DVDs of content every day," he said. "It's mind-blowing how much data we have captured over the last couple of years. The line would extend to Venus and you would still have 7 trillion pixels left over."
So I guess we’ll just have to hope once Microsoft’s ‘Cortana’ drops she’s more Halo 3 than Halo 4.