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Cortana's voice is synthesized in part from an AI character in Halo

Matt Hamblen | April 3, 2014
Cortana, Microsoft's new digital assistant for Windows Phone 8.1, gets her name from a fictional character in the popular Halo video game series.

Cortana is the "first truly personal digital assistant who learns about me and the people that matter to me most," Belfiore said. He encountered a couple of problems using Cortana, but explained them away as related to live demos with beta software.

Llamas said he's hoping to see how well Cortana can offer a fuller explanation to a question, rather than offering a simple response. At Build, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella conversed briefly with Cortana with what seemed like some staged responses from Cortana.

But Llamas said it would be helpful to have a digital assistant who can add on a phrase such as, "You're welcome, and have a nice day."

Even if such a flourish isn't exactly how Cortana will work in the real world, Llamas said Microsoft has begun to show what's possible.

"With a personal digital assitant, there's always a danger of it becoming novelty-ware, but Cortana is designed to understand your habits and programs and that's pretty huge to me," Llamas added. "Voice is one of the best user interfaces out there, and I'll be interested to see how quickly Cortana will understand both context and language."

 

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