Microsoft Opens Cortana Virtual Assistant to Third-Party Hardware Makers

Discussion in 'MacRumors.com News Discussion' started by MacRumors, Dec 14, 2016.

  1. MacRumors macrumors bot

    MacRumors

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    Microsoft has announced it is making its Cortana voice assistant AI available to third-party device makers, with third-party developers also set to get access to the platform for integrating into their services on Cortana-powered devices.

    The company's approach is based on two software kits currently available for preview: A Skills Kit that allows developers to build apps that can be called up and controlled via Cortana using voice commands, and a Cortana Devices SDK, which enables third-party hardware manufacturers to bake in the voice-activated AI to new devices.


    Premium audio company Harman Kardon is set to become one of the first device makers to make use of the SDK in a new wireless speaker, set to debut early next year. In a short video released by Microsoft, the speaker looks vaguely similar to an Amazon Echo, but appears to feature a display at the top that lights up when Cortana is summoned.

    Given its long history of working with OEMs, Microsoft's decision to license out its Cortana AI to third party device makers could prove an adroit move in a smart speaker space currently dominated by Google and Amazon, both of which have released own-branded devices.

    Just last week, Microsoft unveiled plans to compete with smart devices like Google Home and Amazon Echo by developing a HomeHub feature for Windows 10 PCs that enables Cortana to be summoned from the lock screen and provide useful information on request. The Redmond-based company is also planning to enable Cortana integration with fridges, toasters, thermostats, and other Internet of Things (IoT) devices, made possible by way of a Windows 10 Creators Update, due to land in March 2017.

    Apple's interest in bringing a Siri-integrated smart speaker to market has been rumored since May. The company is said to be developing a product that would include a speaker and microphone that could be used for features like listening to music, getting news headlines, and more, but further details have so far been thin on the ground.

    Despite the lack of recent rumors, a report last month suggested that Amazon is already readying its response to Apple's entry into the market. Amazon's next iteration of the Echo speaker is said to be a premium model that includes a large touchscreen, marking a major departure from the tall, cylindrical design of the Echo currently on sale.

    Article Link: Microsoft Opens Cortana Virtual Assistant to Third-Party Hardware Makers
     
  2. maflynn Moderator

    maflynn

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    I think its a good idea, so they have a better shot at competing with Google and Amazon
     
  3. Sirious, Dec 14, 2016
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2016

    Sirious macrumors 65816

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    I can't wait to talk to my underpowered Siri speaker. Hope it's thin enough :p
     
  4. mkeeley macrumors 6502

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    Never understood why they gave it such a long name. Activation names should be short and roll off the tongue. Siri's probably the best in that respect and Alexa next. But OK google doesn't roll of the tongue at all (I use ok booboo instead and it works) and cortana's has one too many syllables.
     
  5. prowlmedia, Dec 14, 2016
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2016

    prowlmedia Suspended

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    #5
    So it Looks remarkably like someone else product...Amazon Echo.
    Harmon Kardon is owned by Samsung.
    Sigh.
    --- Post Merged, Dec 14, 2016 ---
    It's the name of the computer from Halo.

    Cortana speech recognition is ok.. but 95% of the time just pings me to a Edge webpage ( completely ignoring that chrome is Default ) the rest of the time pings out midway through a sentence
     
  6. WBRacing macrumors 6502a

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    Because of the success of the Halo game series and how long it has existed for I would guess.
     
  7. Thunderhawks Suspended

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    #7
    Another field where Apple is snoozing.

    "Siri is a bag of hurt"

    They used to come in after everybody and blow us away with their solution.

    Hasn't happened in a long, long time.

    Oh the good old days.
     
  8. Naraxus macrumors 6502a

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  9. WBRacing macrumors 6502a

    WBRacing

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    It's not even that, I turned it off on my phone and Mac. To me it doesn't exist. We instead use the Echo Dot which works brilliantly with power sockets, lights and central heating. Next year it'll also handle my Sonos system.
     
  10. Naraxus macrumors 6502a

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    Echo & Google Now blow away Siri in pretty much every category
     
  11. MacBergin macrumors regular

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    Unfortunately I believe Apple will respond in 2 years and the world will yawn. After seeing the Microsoft Surface Studio and now hearing this, I am seriously thinking of leaving the Apple bubble. What happened to the days of the first iPhone or iPad when Apple lead the charge and created a category?? Now they just come late to the party every time. :(
     
  12. GadgetBen macrumors 6502a

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    Can someone please explain why anyone would need these products (including Amazon Echo) if you have a mobile device with voice assistant and Sonos speakers linked to Spotify or Apple Music for your tunes?
     
  13. Chupa Chupa macrumors G5

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    It's probably as too late for MS as it is for Apple and Google. I think Amazon wins this race by a few lengths. They were first to market with a voice command speaker, even though Apple bought Siri long before, and maintained its lead even when it slowed down. The new Dot + their aggressive pricing + the fact Alexa actually works blew everyone out of the race this season.

    I have a limited HomeKit set up - Hue + August Lock + Ecobee but I'm thankful all these devices are also Alexa compatible should I need to make a switch. Siri is becoming increasingly frustrating and she should work the same on an iDevice as a Mac too. I don't know it because her technology backend is limited or Apple lost it's knack for designing simple-to-use products but it should be humiliating to Apple that Amazon eclipsed them here.

    I keep thinking of that 60 minutes piece featuring TC where he or Ive -- don't recall which -- say Apple is always testing new product. Apparently all talk or what they are testing is even worse than some of the stuff they have been releasing of late.
    --- Post Merged, Dec 14, 2016 ---
    Because you don't always -- at least I don't -- have my phone by my side when I'm in my house. Also "hey Siri" doesn't work well when your phone is in your pocket. Also because "hey Siri" doesn't work unplugged on all iOS devices. What Dot does is allow you to put an inexpensive voice command speaker in multiple rooms in your house and create a true voice controlled network.
     
  14. GadgetBen, Dec 14, 2016
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2016

    GadgetBen macrumors 6502a

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    #14
    The answer is that you don't need this if you always have your mobile in your pocket like I do (unfortunately). We have learned to live in a world where we always keep our phones close to us.

    I don't use voice commands often because they are limited. I can only imagine talking to these giant voice boxes is just as frustrating. It's yet another gadget to find a plug socket for.

    I guarantee that these products will be at the back of most people's entertainment cabinets collecting dust this time next year.

    For me it will be about who can introduce Viv first. For some reason, I don't think it will be Apple. We might get an upgraded Siri in 2018....

    Buy a Sonos Play 1 and enjoy the sound quality of your music through these in the meantime. You can control the music from your lock screen on your iPhone. Voice command software is still too primitive.

    P.S They are hardly 'inexpensive' for most people!
     
  15. andyyau macrumors member

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    Cortana is annoying. When you press start button and type something to search for a program, it will go to web and find something for you. I disable it for all my Windows 10 machines.
     
  16. Time Less macrumors 6502

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  17. rusty2192 macrumors 6502a

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    I was thinking the same thing about Samsung buying Harmon Kardon, but that deal is fairly recent, so this product was probably already in the works before the deal. However, it calls into question the longevity of support for the product. Will Samsung keep Cortana on their products or move to some S-Voice type competitor once they have full control of Harmon? I wouldn't gamble on it.
     
  18. prowlmedia Suspended

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    Agree I only use it for maths and exchange rates...! Seem to be the only things that are built in without a web search.
     
  19. 69Mustang macrumors 603

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    Samsung owns Viv. So I think they will be the first to introduce it.

    Pretty sure they are eventually going to incorporate the tech behind Viv into all of their products.
     
  20. sinsin07 macrumors 68040

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    Alexa and Cortana have the same number of syllables.
     
  21. mkeeley macrumors 6502

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    Ah OK, never played Halo so didn't know. Still too long as an activation word. I noticed that too, there is a way to get it to use chrome but can't remember how I did it. Like Siri on the Mac I used it for a while and then turned it off.
     
  22. actinide macrumors regular

    actinide

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    That is your complaint about cortana? You do realize you can change her call out name.
    I admire your priorities.
     
  23. riverfreak macrumors 65816

    riverfreak

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    #23
    To make it easier for Amazon and Google to listen in and learn your preferences.

    If Apple thinks they can waltz in to this market late and make an impact like they did with the iPod, I fear they are sorely wrong. If you are already invested in the Echo ecosystem I doubt you will jump ship.

    That said, I personally find all of these systems painful to use. What's the point when it is (at best) a 50/50 chance of having your task completed correctly, and more often much, much worse.
     
  24. Chupa Chupa macrumors G5

    Chupa Chupa

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    1. As I noted in another post here "Hey Siri" doesn't work with your phone in your pocket. I know I've tried. Also as noted, not everyone has their phone attached to their hip when at home. I for one do not. In fact when I'm home I'm regularly using "Find my iPhone" to figure out where I left it.

    2. If I have to pull my phone out to ask Siri to turn on the lights or turn down the thermostat I might as well just flip the switch myself. It totally negates the whole point of hands-free voice automation. The Dot is not about music. It's speaker is lousy for that. The Dot is about home automation. You are thinking maybe of the Echo or Tap which are meant to play music and are considerably more expensive than the Dot.

    3. Voice commands are limited but like any language you learn how to talk the way it can understand. I can say "Hey Siri, turn the bedroom lights to 50" and she understands to turn the lights to 50%. Alexa is a lot better with "normal language" than Siri. That and Apple not having a stand-alone voice command speaker are my two big beefs here, and why Amazon will continue to win here.

    4. Most people can afford a $39-49 box if they have a $600-1000 smartphone. Otherwise there wouldn't be a market for them. Amazon can't make money on these -- actually probably loses money on the Dot -- if it doesn't make it up in volume. The profit margin on these is negligible if at all. It's just a hook into Amazon the same way a razor stick is to blades.
    --- Post Merged, Dec 14, 2016 ---
    I think you meant to say Tim Cook... :D
     
  25. StevieD100 macrumors 6502a

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    #25
    Really? For a lot of users NONE of these (Cortana, Alexa, Siri etc) are must haves.
    One company I know that is rolling out Windows 10 are disabling cortana by a group policy.
    Frankly, I could not give a damm about any of them. There are far more important things that need attention. Like emoji's perhaps? (sic)
     

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