Video: Microsoft Reveals Digital Assistant 'Cortana'

In an effort to compete with Apple's Siri and Google's Google Now, Microsoft revealed that it will soon release its own digital assistant -- Cortana. (Yes, that's Master Chief's right-hand girl in the Halo video games series, for those of you in the know.)

Cortana is expected to surpass its biggest competition, at least on paper. The assistant, available on Microsoft's Windows Phone 8.1, will be similar to Siri, in that it will address the user by any name, but will provide users with useful information to serve as a real assistant.

Cortana's central repository information system is called Notebook and can memorize the user's schedule, planned trips, personal information, typical behaviors, and help the user keep track of important dates and events. The data stored is secure and contains an edit feature so all information can be deleted or altered at-will, and Cortana can also be programmed to automatically set up reminders using keywords.

The assistant is backed up by Bing, Foursquare, and a few other services to provide users with a plethora of information. The icon for the assistant is a spinning circle and changes visually when speaking, processing information, or when activated. Users also have the option to be addressed generally or by name.

I love the use of the Cortana character, and I am sure the initial introduction will pale in comparison to her use in the Halo game series. But, it's a first step. A familiar face and sound is sure to be popular no matter what condition the assistant comes in. I am sure the fan base will make Cortana useful, too. Let's hope Microsoft doesn't lock her down in the proprietary coding world.

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