Microsoft making its own Siri, hires Halo's Cortana to voice it

17 January 2014

Microsoft has reportedly hired Jen Taylor, the actress who voiced Cortana in the Halo video game series, to be the voice of its upcoming Siri/Google Now competitor. The news is fitting, following last year’s rumour that MSFT was working on a Siri-esque service codenamed ‘Cortana’.

The Cortana project beta is expected to launch sometime in early 2014 on the Windows Phone 8.1 platform and possibly on Xbox One, but One fans may have to wait for the full release to try it out. MSFTnerd has its beta bet on Lumia devices getting the first taste in April during Microsoft’s annual Build conference in San Fransisco.

This sounds plausible, but don’t get too excited just yet. The ‘soon’ tag only applies to the beta. The full-version isn’t expected to launch until sometime in 2015, which makes sense. April 2015 is the expected release date of Window’s next full Windows PC and tablet platform: Windows ‘Threshold’.

From Halo to handset

Speaking as a gamer, the best thing about this news is that it’s very likely the service will keep the ‘Cortana’ name. Microsoft owns the rights to the Halo franchise and thus the name and character of Cortana.

It also has a vested interest in merging its Windows, Windows Phone and Xbox platforms further. A cross-platform personal assistant with the voice and name of one of its most iconic characters would definitely tie in to that goal.

It’s a pretty apt choice, too. For the unfamiliar, the character of Cortana is an artificial intelligence (AI) that assists the player throughout the game, providing information and insight to the protagonist. Building a real-world Cortana would be a pretty nifty gimmick, even if she was powered by the Bing engine.

The success of a Cortana assistant will depend greatly on its cross-platform tie-ins. Microsoft has promised and failed to deliver other universal experiences before. Things like cross-device nad cross-OS game saves are still incredibly rare, for instance.

Still, if Cortana is tied in to your Microsoft account and not a device-contained service, then we can see it being great. It’s not uncommon at all for people to own both an Xbox and Windows PC, a Siri-like service that ties in to that experience will provide decent motivation for users to go for the MSFT hat-trick and make the switch to Windows Phone.

Source: MSFTnerd via Polygon

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