What happened to Cortana?

Cortana…thinking of the Microsoft A.I system makes something stir in your brain, doesn’t it?
When you think of home automation, your mind naturally jumps first to Amazon Alexa, then Google Assistant as the market leaders, but whatever happened to the Microsoft alternative? Of course, if you’re a windows user, you’ll undoubtedly have Cortana on hand on your PC, but she’s hardly a leading contender in the home automation market, especially in Australia as we still can’t buy the Harmon Kardon speaker (with Cortana) over here. This narrow market is one of Microsoft’s main problems, as they’re heavily reliant on PC users for their Cortana audience in markets other than the US. But for PC users, it also speaks volumes that one of the top relevant searches on google is: how can I turn Cortana off?

Yet, Microsoft is a household name, which means potential audiences have trust in them. They’re also making gains with software updates, adding IFTTT (if this then that) capability only slightly later than Google and Amazon, and a recent update allows Cortana to integrate with outlook, meaning we can listen to and respond to our emails by speaking. A lot of people were also excited about Microsoft working with Amazon to integrate their respective devices, yet this has been pushed back way past the original date of the end of 2017. It seems like Cortana still has some major gains to make, especially as it’s not even an option for us in Australia yet, before it can be anything more than an underdog against Amazon and Google. Although, perhaps with new boss Javier Soltero and the opening of the Cortana Intelligence Institute, Microsoft are ready to make up for lost time?

Microsoft is saying goodbye mobile?

News struck a few weeks ago that Bill Gates no longer equips himself with a Windows Phone, but has switched over to android. While this is not exactly ground-breaking news considering Gates is no longer involved with Microsofts; day-to-day running, what is Ground breaking news, at least for the Home Automation fans, is news that has come out surrounding Microsofts latest direction choices. In the last 24hrs Microsoft worker Joe Belfiore took to his twitter account @joebelfiore to address a tweet he received from a Microsoft Windows Phone user.

This whole conversation indicates Microsoft is moving away from the phone and maybe even hardware in general, and this is the first official time anyone from Microsoft has directly addressed it. But don’t worry if you still love your windows phone, they will still support software and bug fixes… FOR NOW. Microsoft has said goodbye to support for the old OS running platforms in the past few years. and of course, Belfiore’s Twitter account was hounded with questions from Microsoft users.

So, what’s the good news, you ask. What does Microsoft have to do with Home Automation?

Well, with Microsoft finally admitting defeat for the Windows phone, they are adding home automation capabilities for Windows 10.  Of course, you must use the pre-existing Windows Assistant Cortana. (which is both voice and written controlled) but news is flowing fast about this new feature. Which you can read ALL ABOUT in this post HERE

Overall there is big changes for Microsoft on the horizon, & it is safe to assume that partnering with Amazon was the first big move from them.

Microsoft Windows Connected Home?

Microsoft Cortana ‘officially’ was released in 2015, and for Australians using Windows 10 there is mixed reviews. For navigating your PC it’s a handy little search too,. but as far as the Cortana we have access to, she can’t really do a whole lot, and is DEFINATELY optimised for use in the states. A lot of what Cortana can do can be customized or enabled through the Cortana Notebook, a sort of settings menu where you can tell Cortana what to keep track of for you as well as enable integrations with different services. New to the menu in AMERICA is a recently added “Connected Home” section, where users can now sign in to different smart home services to allow Cortana to control smart devices around their house. So Far only five services are available: Wink, Insteon, Nest, SmartThings, and Hue but it is likely that Microsoft will add new services as time goes on.

To get started, simply navigate to Cortana (if you have it enabled), click on the notebook (Or just start typing Cortana notebook) to navigate to settings, and you will see the menu now included ‘Connected Home’  on the list of integrations, toggle it on and once you’ve activated the feature, you’ll be able to sign into your various accounts and allow Cortana to manage them.

Besides using Cortana on Windows PC, the Connect Home feature is also accessible for Cortana on Xbox console, Raspberry Pi and Windows Mobile. Although there aren’t too many Windows Mobile users out there. Still, it’s nice that Microsoft is continuing to support those customers. You can read about that news HERE

Tech Company Harman Kardon will be releasing a voice activated assistant speaker, Invoke, which will be powered by Microsoft Cortana and will release October 22nd in the US. (RUMORED)

The idea of both Invoke and Windows 10 PC’s working as a Home Hub.

It appears Windows will have not only Google Home, or Alexa in their sights, but the entire market. They want to revolutionise it, the power of a screen and computer behind them makes the options almost limitless.

An exclusive interview with an unnamed Microsoft worker has told Windows Central.

“Microsoft is building a dedicated “Connected Home” app that will make adding smart devices to your home easy; with an overview of all the smart devices in your home and options to turn them on and off, configure them, and more. You’ll also be able to group devices to individual rooms; for example, you could have Hue lights 1, 2 and 3 grouped under the Bedroom tag and tell the Home Hub to “turn off the bedroom lights”. This app will work much like most other smart home apps, except this one will have deep integration with Windows 10″

Microsoft’s Speech Recognition on par with a human

Microsoft researchers have hit a milestone 25 year in the making. Their speech recognition used for many Microsoft products including assistant Cortana has finally reached an error rate of only 5.1 percent, putting it on par with the accuracy of professional human TRANSCRIBERS for the first time ever. About a year ago, the Microsoft team refined its system to reach a 5.9 percent word error rate. Which was generally considered to be the average human error rate, but further work by other researchers suggested that 5.1 percent was closer to the mark for humans professionally transcribing speech heard in a conversation.


Follow up on Amazon and Microsoft Partnership

So, after the surprise announcement of amazon and Microsoft joining sides. We can confirm this move means neither party will drop their respective assistant, but that the assistants will work hand in hand allowing you to access Cortana’s features from Alexa, and vice versa. While the pair of Assistants wont work in perfect harmony together you can expect a command similar to ” hey Cortana, open Alexa” or “alexa/Echo, open Cortana”