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Fans of the Xbox first-person shooter series Halo will immediately recognize the name Cortana. She’s the anthropomorphized AI that assists the player throughout the game. But Microsoft, which owns the Halo franchise, has plans for Cortana beyond the games. According a ZDNet report, Cortana will become a ‘real-life’ speech-enabled virtual assistant that crosses the Windows platforms.
ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley reported that Cortana will be a virtual assistant in the vein of Apple’s(s aapl) Siri and Google(s goog) Now, except it won’t be limited to smartphones. According to the report, Cortana will be core to Microsoft’s plans to makeover the “shell” encompassing all of the Windows operating systems, from the PC to the smartphone to Xbox One.
In a memo in July, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer hinted at such a cross-platform UI, describing a forthcoming interface that would 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.”
Now Foley’s sources are filling in the details: Microsoft is combining the Satori relational technology that powers search engine Bing with speech recognition and natural language understanding technologies from its TellMe subsidiary and its significant work in machine learning.
Apparently we’ll have to wait until at least next year, if not 2015 of 2016 before Cortana starts popping up in our phones, browsers and game consoles (apart from within the Halo games, that is). Microsoft seems set on producing something revolutionary, rather than merely copycatting Siri or Google Now. And given the way the tech industry is heading, its plans are probably bigger than just the screened devices we use to engage with Microsoft’s services today. Microsoft could use Cortana as a way of bridging the user interfaces of the connected home, connected car and the broader world of the internet of things.