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article imageMicrosoft's Cortana could get chattier and more personal soon

By James Walker     Nov 8, 2016 in Technology
Microsoft's Cortana could become a lot more personal soon. Microsoft recently applied for a patent that describes a "personalized greeting system" capable of emulating human interactions and delivering contextually relevant welcome messages.
Cortana currently greets users with a range of friendly but generic messages including "What's up?", "Greetings!" and "Anything I can get started?" The phrases are displayed randomly each time Cortana's interface is opened. Microsoft may be working on something more advanced though. As discovered by MSPoweruser, the company has considered technology that takes into account your interests to develop unique greetings.
Cortana would feel a little more human if the system gets developed. Current digital assistants are limited by their canned and scripted responses to queries. This is particularly evident in the initial greeting messages. After you've been using Cortana for a while, you'll have seen all the possible greetings and any semblance of being personal or human is lost.
Microsoft's proposed solution would consider your interests to create a greeting based on things Cortana already knows about you. The app would then intelligently rank the different messages based on how interested you are in the subject. If Cortana determined a user is more interested in sports than the weather, the app could generate a greeting based on the latest match results. For a different user, it may be the weather that’s ranked higher.
Each greeting would only be displayed once after generation. This solves another problem of current assistants. It's not uncommon for the same message to be used multiple times throughout the day. This is particularly evident on special occasions, such as birthdays. Cortana will say "Happy Birthday!" to the user but will continue to do so throughout the day, unlike a real person would.
Microsoft proposes the system could keep track of the greetings it's used. The second time that Cortana is launched on your birthday, the app would know not to say "Happy Birthday!" again. Instead, the assistant would continue the context, opting for a more natural "Hope you are having a wonderful day!" It follows human speech conventions and makes for a more convincing digital assistant.
Microsoft suggests data including emails, user searches and calendar entries could be used to power the greetings system. This may raise some privacy concerns amongst users, especially as Windows 10 already has a poor reputation for transparency in this regard. Since Cortana can already access these data sources, existing users shouldn't be affected though.
The patent was filed on April 28th 2016. Microsoft may not be actively developing the technology, although it does seem to align with its long-term goals for Cortana and artificial intelligence. The company has been adding new features to the assistant since it became available on desktop PCs with last year's launch of Windows 10.
More about Microsoft, cortana, digital assistants, Ai, Artificial intelligence