By Jide Patrick
This isn’t a heartbreak story or a nanny story either. Cortana is Microsoft’s answer to Siri (and Google Now).
Microsoft’s personal assistant has been on the Windows phones for a long while but just recently transitioned into the full Windows 10 PC OS. Its a combo of a search box and an intelligent assistant. Cortana gets to know you from the minute you start using her, sorry, it; from where you live, to scheduled time for your next flight.
These additions may not seem as big in writing but using it feels really useful and efficient. With that being said, the feature makes navigating your Windows 10 PC a breeze… sort of. You can say “Hey, Cortana” to trigger it for commands or search queries but a few times tried, most times failed. With error messages like “i didn’t get that” or “something went wrong” or “the internet and i aren’t talking right now” but when it works, it works flawlessly. My speculation being that new hardware would be designed to take full potential of this feature and others in the new OS.
Sifting through the flaws, I’m really having a good time with Cortana. I love the response I get when I ask it about Halo, it makes me chuckle a bit. You can still access Cortana by mousing over to “Ask me anything” bar found at the bottom left part of the screen. You see, the Notebook is where Cortana stores the tidbits it learns about you, and it’ll conduct a quick interview with you the first time you fire it up to get a sense of what you’re about. More importantly, you can pop in to edit your presumed preferences and add new ones if you don’t want to wait for Cortana to figure them out. Going through the options can be a little overwhelming if you’re not used to this stuff – not only can you ask it to display info cards for local restaurants, but it’ll also ask for the kind of atmosphere you dig and how far you’re willing to go. Ditto for what kind of news you like, what kind of events you like to attend and whether you drive or take public transport.
The info cards that pop up in Cortana’s search window and on the web can be terribly useful, but things can get inconsistent when you’re trying to have a conversation with it. Go ahead: ask it how far away the moon is. Assuming you didn’t hush mouth your way through that sentence, Cortana will cheerfully fire up an info card that confirms, yes, it’s 238,000 miles away. Ask the same question about the sun, or Venus, or Mars, though, and it just opens up a web browser window with the correct Bing search results. Oh, and asking how far away Neptune was yielded an info card with three Neptune-themed hotels nearby in Lagos. Erm, nice try?. Cortana also handles local search, and it’s excellent. Hitting the “My Stuff” button within a Cortana search will search for files that are local to the machine and any data stored on OneDrive.
Having a single interface for virtual assistant searches, web searches, and traditional computer searches is a super convenient and powerful thing, and Microsoft has done a really great job of integrating it here. It might be my favourite thing about Windows 10.