Microsoft Cortana knows who she is – and that she’s better than Siri

Thursday, 5 June 2014 01:28 GMT By Brenna Hillier

In today’s most ominous signifier of the coming singularity, the new Siri rival, Microsoft Cortana, is looking forward to saving the universe.


Eventually planned for integration in Windows 8 and the and Xbox One’s OS, Microsoft Cortana is currently only available in beta for Windows Phone 8, and is restricted to the US. As such, most of us haven’t had a chance to check the app out.

Luckily, Engadget has posted a lengthy feature previewing the personal assistant app, which is a lot like Apple’s Siri but modelled Halo’s Cortana, Master Chief’s AI companion.

According to the preview, Cortana has a lot of cheeky little comments and jokes, much like Siri – but if you ask her how she compares to Apple’s assistant, she has a somewhat spooky answer:

“Not to brag, but apparently I’ll help save the universe in about 500 years.”

Cortana knows who she is and what she’ll become. That’s it, I’m out; fire the EMPs!

We’re kidding, of course, but you’ve got to admit that’s a cool answer, and apparently just one of a number of in-jokes and Easter eggs. Because Cortana is a server-side app, Microsoft can add new jokes and comments as quickly as it likes, and apparently plans to make additions between update cycles “for things that are timely, urgent or especially badass”. Ha ha.

When the project was first rumoured, we thought the codename Cortana was just a cute nod from one Microsoft division to another, but to our delight Microsoft later made the connection official and explicit, even bringing voice actor Jen Taylor in to provide her talents.

343 Industries was involved in the creation of the app, providing the development team with backstory and a description of her personality. As a result, and in response to research suggesting people prefer to interact with more human-like AI, Cortana has a more cocky, less servile personality than competing virtual assistants.

I’m not sure how I feel about Cortana berating me for my Australian accent every time I ask my Xbox One to find whatever game I’ve lost in its voice-centric interface. But I’m pretty keen to ask her how to avoid certain catastrophic future events…