Hacker News new | comments | show | ask | jobs | submit login
Say Hello to Cortana, Microsoft’s Siri Equivalent (gamerevolution.com)
48 points by btimil on Mar 3, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 61 comments

I hope Microsoft decides to target Google Now instead of Siri. Google Now provides so much more depth than a voice interface; Siri offers so little in comparison. Siri works well as a voice activated personal assistant (that I rarely see people use).

Based on search history, emails, and location Google Now provides information before you need to search for it. It happens to have a voice activated interface available. I'd really like to see Microsoft do more than creating a voice activated app for setting alarms and searching yelp with Cortana. The screenshot looks promising and the author probably made the Siri connection himself so I feel hopeful.

I hope they do exactly the opposite. Weve got these behemoths literally pecking at one another over * THE SAME PRODUCT * ... why? They've got massive research expenses... and this is how they invest their money. facepalm

Because competition drives innovation. We wouldn't have Chrome today if nobody had bothered competing against IE. We wouldn't have Google if nobody thought they could do better than Altavista.

My wife has an iPhone and I've got a Nexus 5. Siri is hands down better as a voice interface because of its interactivity. Google Nows search and email integration is useful if you depend a lot on the rest of the Google ecosystem. So far for me, it just seems to know where I am. It notified me that an Amazon package was delivered. Which is nicd, I guess.

Just like everything else from Google, the more information you give it, the more helpful it becomes. It's nice when I search directions to somewhere on Google Maps and it notifies me if I'm nearby it a few days later. It reminds me when I have a flight coming up and keeps the reservation details quickly accessible when I need them.

Well, I hope Microsoft decides to combine the best of both. Perhaps finally the Bing platform might be useful with some fiction inspired characteristics.

What's next, GLaDOS on our Steamboxes?


"I hate you."

"Bring up Team Fortress 2"

"Wouldn't you prefer a nice game of chess? Or how about 'Pass the Hot Deadly Neurotoxin'?"

>The Verge reports that

So, The Verge's article was submitted to HN too and got 4 points:


Submitted at noon. Everyone left for lunch.

Fickle voters.

Possible branding problem: Cortana the Halo character goes insane after seven years.

Forced obsolescence -- Microsoft learned from Windows XP.

I can see it now.

"OK, Cortana, show me how to get to Mars."


A bit of a side-note, but calling something an "equivalent" in this kind of circumstance is a bit of a misnomer, I think. "Competitor", sure. But "equivalent" implies some sort of interchangeability to me.

Are they interchangeable in casual conversation?

What do you mean by "interchangeability"? Do they not want Cortana do all the things Siri does?

They want it to, but unless it does today, it's not an "equivalent" yet. It's splitting hairs but the choice of that word implies they're equal in a way that "Microsoft's answer to Siri" or "alternative to Siri" does not. It's an implicit assessment of its relative capability.

Nice Halo reference! Microsoft already has Kinect, so they are not starting from scratch in terms of voice recognition/processing.

Heh, Kinect. Microsoft's Speech API is over a decade old now.

I remember using it on XP - it worked rather well. Both speech recognition and synthesis have significantly improved since then.

They've been doing some really cool stuff for a long time.

Check out this real-time translation of spoken English into written and spoken Chinese (in the same voice of the speaker): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nu-nlQqFCKg

> so they are not starting from scratch in terms of voice recognition/processing.

If my Kinect experience is any indicator, Microsoft may not be starting from scratch, but it has a long way to go. Kinect voice recognition works well enough to trick me into thinking that it's actually going to work this time, and fails often enough that I feel like an idiot when I finally give up and pick up a controller. I think I'm just going to unplug the damned thing, as it serves no other real purpose for me.

So, about the same as siri then.

Unintentional humor when they say

> will "take the form of a circular animated icon instead of a female character." Aw, shucks!

> Here's a look at the program, courtesy of the aforementioned outlet.

Because I have noscript, what's "there" is nothing but firefox's circular animated progress ring.

I think the idea of trapping human traits inside a mobile device will eventually be a dead end. The interface with the device should be based on the inherent nature of the device, utilizing its size, shape, and hardware for sensory and spatial character and user dictated software for personality and habits.

In this concept, you decide whether or not the device even talks. With vibration, LED pulse, audio, and video at your disposal, who knows what kind of interface works best? We seem to desperately want a 7 of 11 or whatever from Star Trek. Personally, i like the way that computers and devices interact with me, especially when it is on their terms. I know it is developed and implemented by humans, but devices acquire character over time.

Part of the reason for mimicking human traits (particularly, in attempting to read and emulate emotional cues) is to generate empathy for a device[1]. Consumers who form emotional attachments to and converse with their devices, so that at a subconscious level, they're seen as other people and not mere things, are more likely to remain loyal to that brand, and to trust the content (or advertisements) that comes through it.

It will be driven less by "Star Trek" idealism and more by subtle attempts at applied social engineering. Effects like the mirrors they've developed in Tokyo which tweak your reflection to make you look happier[2] because happier people shop more.

[1]http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2014/01/20/should_ai... [2]http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2013/08/07/incendiary_r...

I understand the empathy factor, but i believe it is misguided. The devices are not human; they never will be. Human, as a construct, is something that has developed over a long time based on physical constraints and chance. Applying the same logic, by choice, to devices is the point i am trying to discuss towards.

I think a device that purrs when you plug it in, makes a sharp whine when you drop it, and uses its vibrations to communicate subtle emotional reflections [buzzing for a little longer when you pick it up after down time, getting excited in the morning and over clocking just a touch,etc] will generate empathy and attachment to devices. The smart phone is uniquely capable of transmitting a number of emotional reflections through a number of ways. The voice element is so basic; an automated slave that you constrain to human speech patterns. I think looking at the device as a creature then building interactions from there.

Last time one of the big tech companies made a sci-fi reference for a new product it was a failure :( remember Google Wave?

One of these days, someone will build our dream Sci-Fi future. At any rate, Cortana is a good name.

perhaps i'm geek-culture-ally handicapped here, but what did Wave reference?

I believe it was a reference to the fictional communication system in Joss Whedon's short-lived TV show, Firefly.

Oh wow, I made a comment the other day about how Wave always made me think of Firefly. I had no idea that it was true.

In retrospect it makes complete sense.

hm. I watched that show twice through, but didn't catch that reference, possibly because I watched it after wave came out.


What's the offline story? Because its lame that I've got a 2.2 GHz quad core in my phone but Google Now can't recognize simple voice commands without going over the internet.

Looks like they are trying to market privacy as a core differentiator. It is supposed to work both online and offline while putting you in control of what personal information Cortana access has access to [1].

I am not a big fan of moving everything to the cloud. What is point of having faster than ever smartphone and then being at the mercy of the cloud to open even a trivial apps.


Why don't you download the offline dictionary then? (Settings, Language and Input, Voice Search, Offline speech recognition)

I do have it. Still gives me errors like "can't connect to Google Now" when I do stuff like send a text message using voice.

I know that circle thing is supposed to look like an eye, but I instantly see it as... something else. Slightly unfortunate.

I think that's just an unfortunate screenshot. It 's an animated spinning circle, so it wont look like that in motion, just for a single frame.

There is nothing unfortunate about oval shapes or folded shapes. Much symbolism and many icons are quite phallic. They both carry a message shaped by content and context.

for the nerds: a vagina

I wonder if Microsoft will ever again release a product that's meaningfully ahead of the curve, such that we see headlines about Apple and Google putting out a "me too" product to catch up with MS.

Speech recognition is not easy. It's pretty cool to see three large companies spending research money to make our computers understand human language.

MS has a significant background in voice recognition, I expect they would deliver a technically proficient product in that aspect.

The next version will be called Durandal...

One Durandal in a planetary network is bad enough. Having a clone on each device? We'd all be dead in days.

(See you starside.)

I do like the name.



Cortana, Siri ... Who comes up with these names? Thank fsck for Watson.

Cortana came from the mega-popular XBox game Halo. She was the AI who guided the player around.

The name Siri is Norwegian, meaning "beautiful woman who leads you to victory", and comes from the intended name for the original developer's first child. - (Wikipedia)

It's hard to imagine that the name Siri wasn't also an intentional reference to the name of the company that originally developed and named it, SRI.

Well they could have called it the Red Queen, but that probably wouldn't be as well received :-)

More seriously, the answer to your question is 'lawyers' (well they don't come up with them but they make sure they are trademarkable/protectable)

Cortana sounds like a mouthful. Imagine saying "Cortana" everytime you want to tell it something. And I imagine it would be even more embarassing to do it in public than it is for saying "Siri".

Cortana is in reference to the AI of popular game Halo so its less awkward to those who know the reference. Had Cortana come before Siri, saying Siri would now have sounded silly. Most uncommon names sounds silly in the beginning but it blends in as time passes.

Also from what I have read, you don't need to start a sentence with Cortana to get its attention.

    > Had Cortana come before Siri, saying Siri would now
    > have sounded silly.
Well, "Siri" was already a name. Before Halo, "Cortana" wasn't.

I never realized that. Great for SEO, I would think.

Cortana was a legendary sword.

Just read up on that... the sword was called "Curtana."


Ok I am waiting for some one to come out with one called EDI a Mass efect 3 reference.

saying "ok google now" (Moto X) is terrible. Especially when it fails about half the time. on the other hand it's incredibly unlikely anyone will name their child "ok google now"

I want to be able to wake up with Moto G with "what up g!".

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact