Microsoft’s Cortana Said to be Coming to iOS and Android

Microsoft thinks Apple customers will want to use its virtual assistant, Cortana, instead of Siri. The software maker is working on an advanced version of Cortana, using research from an artificial intelligence project called “Einstein”, reports Reuters.

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Ever since Apple introduced Siri with the iPhone 4S, it has been learning a lot, including our habits and questions, and has become able to do much more than tell us the weather forecast. But Microsoft thinks it can do a better job: It can transform its virtual assistant into the first intelligent agent that anticipates the users’ needs.

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. 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. 

For example, Cortana could tell the user when to leave for the airport, given that the user previously read an email and was planning a flight. Then the virtual assistant would automatically check flight status, determine user location (via GPS), and check traffic conditions.

While none of the above individual steps are a breakthrough, the catch is in creating an artificial intelligence that can create a workflow from these individual processes. Now that’s a useful breakthrough, according to Microsoft.