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article imageCortana and Alexa make friends in joint collaboration

By James Walker     Sep 4, 2017 in Internet
Microsoft and Amazon have teamed up to combine their digital assistants. Users of Cortana and Alexa will be able to access either one from any device. The two assistants will act as gateways to each other, extending what's possible with voice control.
Microsoft and Amazon jointly announced the significant development late last week. The companies are both working to integrate the other's technology into their own products. At first glance, that may sound counterintuitive, but according to the firms it's part of a broader focus to narrow the gap between humans and technology.
Digital assistants are being pitched as the future of computer interactions. At the moment, they can't link together though. This raises issues if you own products from several ecosystems, especially when each one has different core skills. In the same way you can't ask a family member to complete a work task for you, you'll need to talk to a different AI depending on the interaction you require.
In the case of Cortana, the assistant aims to aid your productivity through Office 365 integration and proactive reminders. Alexa is less about productivity, instead taking control of your home and personal life. You can use it to shop on Amazon, control smart home devices and made calls.
The new collaboration between Microsoft and Amazon is a recognition that both assistants have unique strengths and weaknesses. By creating a bridge between the two, the available feature pool is considerably expanded. Now Cortana can act as a gateway to Amazon and Alexa will let you schedule meetings on Office 365.
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"The world is so big and so multifaceted," said Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. "There are going to be multiple successful intelligent agents, each with access to different sets of data and with different specialized skill areas. Together, their strengths will complement each other and provide customers with a richer and even more helpful experience."
Combining the assistants also creates a stronger ecosystem rival to Apple's Siri and Google's Assistant. Cortana and Alexa are already the fastest growing digital assistants. They're seeing considerable increases in user engagement at the expense of older alternatives such as Siri. By becoming allies, Microsoft and Amazon can now capitalise on each other's successes, creating a more rounded product with additional appeal for customers.
"Ensuring Cortana is available for our customers everywhere and across any device is a key priority for us," said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. "Bringing Cortana's knowledge, Office 365 integration, commitments, and reminders to Alexa is a great step toward that goal."
Cortana and Alexa will start working together later this year. They'll be available as integrations for their respective apps. From Cortana's side, you'll be able to launch Alexa from your Windows 10 PC or your Android or iOS smartphone. Alexa Skills will be available, letting you control devices and manage your Amazon shopping. Conversely, Alexa will soon let you open Cortana when you speak to your Amazon Echo, Echo Dot or Echo Show, giving you a way to set reminders or check your email while in the home.
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