Not Loyal to Cortana: Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant Are Coming Soon To Xbox One

For the past months, we heard that software giant Microsoft was seriously working on Alexa support for Xbox One. This support has a voice control that is compatible with Amazon Echo speakers. And just this week, we’ve have seen proof that Microsoft has offered more beyond its support for Alexa but for Google Assistant, as well.


Microsoft’s Xbox One will soon support Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant


If you could still remember, the company no longer provides its users with a device that could alternately control console using voice commands. This happened when Microsoft killed Kinect. While users could use a headset to speak with Cortana, multi-tasking is really impossible.


Photo courtesy of Windows Central


Now, the forthcoming Microsoft’s Xbox One console would soon be getting an ability to enable Alexa and Google Assistant support through a skill on both platforms. At present, the software giant is only supporting Cortana, its own smart digital assistant via headset or Kinetic accessory.



It is even a common knowledge that Microsoft’s digital assistant Cortana has a limited set of skills. Hence, the company’s decision to include Alexa and Google Assistant support is a welcome development, especially for Xbox users. This means that Xbox users could be able to control their console through both of the digital assistants.



However, as of press time, there are no exact features yet as to what Microsoft would support. What is certain, though, is that Xbox One owners would no longer require to use a Kinect or headset to issue voice commands.



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Microsoft Buys AI startup Semantic Machines

Software giant Microsoft has announced today that it acquired Semantic Machines. The acquisition of the AI start-up company was meant to bolster the company’s AI offerings. This includes the AI products like Cortana, the Azure Bot Service, and Microsoft Cognitive Services, among others.


Microsoft buys Semantic Machines


According to Microsoft, Semantic Machines has extensive experience in working speech synthesis, deep learning, and natural language processing. The company actually  works creatively in producing creative AI.

Credit: AFP/Getty Images/File/Stephen Brashear


They claim that their products aid machines “to communicate, collaborate, understand our goals, and accomplish tasks.” Now with Microsoft acquired Semantic Machines, you can expect that the company would help Microsoft compete with conversational computing initiatives.



This as Microsoft is competing for other computing initiatives from other big tech companies like Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, Google’s Assistant, and Samsung’s Bixby, among others. Also, the AI start-up company has also assembled a group of experts in the conversational AI arena.



This cadre of experts includes Larry Gillick, the former chief scientist for Siri at Apple and researchers UC Berkeley professor Dan Klein as well as Stanford University professor Percy Liang.



“With the acquisition of Semantic Machines, we will establish a conversational AI center of excellence in Berkeley to push forward the boundaries of what is possible in language interfaces,” Microsoft AI and research CTO David Ku said in a blog post.


In case you don’t know, Semantic Machines was founded in August 2014. In the same year, investors poured in $8.5 million of funds to the company. It also received another $12.3 million in December 2015.

Microsoft Announced The Cortana For The Smart Home Devices

Microsoft expands the Cortana with IFTTT integrations

Friday, Microsoft announced that Cortana, their digital virtual assistant, will now be available using IFTTT. And not only that, it will also be available to a number of new smart home devices. It will now support devices from Ecobee, Honeywell Lyric, Honeywell Total Connect Comfort, LIFX, TP-Link Kasa and Geeni.

The company wrote in a blog post late on Friday, “Say ‘Hey Cortana’, set the living room thermostat to 72 degrees’ to control your ecobee, Honeywell Lyric or Honeywell Total Connect Comfort thermostat. With vivid colors from your LIFX Wi-Fi connected light bulbs, you can set the mood just right for movie night.”

The set up is so simple. To do that, users need to open Cortana on Windows 10. Or you may go to the Cortana app on your phone, click Notebook and then click Connected Home. It’s so easy, right?

“From there, you can connect your favorite smart home accounts and control your devices from anywhere you use Cortana,” the post added.

Google also announced Cortana’s support for IFTTT. The IFTTT stands for ‘If This Then That’. It’s both a website and a mobile app that was launched back in 2010.

Microsoft said, “Using IFTTT, you will be able to customize your experience by creating your own phrases to use with services on IFTTT. You can also use Applets on IFTTT with Cortana to trigger multiple actions with one phase.”

Nowadays, the competition between smart home devices using virtual assistant is so tough. From the famous Alexa to Google Assistant to Siri, Microsoft also doesn’t want to be last on the list. Now, Cortana is also up for the challenge and big companies like Apple and Samsung should be aware of its existence.

Microsoft Adds More AI-powered Updates To Bing, Cortana, Office 365

Tech giant Microsoft announced earlier this week that it would release AI-based updates for its products. The news comes after the Gates-owned company revealed such plan at a press event in San Francisco this month.

Microsoft users of Office 365 productivity suite as well as the cloud computing service Azure will surely get the AI-based updates. Apart from this, other Microsoft products that will likely get the update are the Bing search engine, and the Cortana virtual assistant, among others.

Updates to improve search experience?

So what will Microsoft users expect with the upcoming updates? One of the services that will improve because of the update is how the search engine works. The update is expected to bring a comprehensive and complete information. The culled information will be based on the queries posted by the users.

Microsoft claims that the improved comprehensive search results are possible thru the company’s AI-powered Intelligent Search platforms. One of these platforms is the Intelligent Answers where in it uses the company’s reading comprehension features.

Using the Intelligent Answers, it gives a complete and confident users to queries asked by Microsoft users. The tech company even claims that its search engine, Bing is now using a deep neural networks. The purpose of which is to validate answers that are sourced from various sources.

What’s with Cortana?

Apart from Microsoft search engine, Bing, its virtual assistant Cortana will have new and innovative features. These features are likely to improve Cortana’s functionality. With the upcoming update, Cortana now can do tasks like sorting emails, providing a summary of notes.

Next, to sorting emails, Cortana also will sport a feature called “skills chaining.” This feature works by providing users with a unique skill that links Cortana’s action that will prompt the user.

Meanwhile, Microsoft Word will also have Acronyms as a new feature that will help users understand shorthand using the MS Word program, among others.

Siri Versus Cortana: The Ultimate AI Battle

There’s a new personal assistant in town by the name of Cortana. This friendly AI bot lives in your Windows Phone and helps manage your everyday life. Some of you may know Cortana from the Halo video game series, but the Cortana on your Windows phone, like the Nokia Lumia 521 or the Nokia Lumia 635, won’t be relaying tactical information to you. Instead, she’ll schedule appointments, set up reminders and even recommend restaurants in your area.

So you’re probably wondering what happened to Siri and who is better? The answer depends on what kind of personal assistant you prefer.

Siri: The First of Her Kind

Apple fans have grown to love Siri. They find her professional tone endearing and her response to life’s toughest questions simple yet brilliant. Furthermore, Siri is different from traditional voice-recognition software because she understands natural speech, according to Apple. The more you use Siri, the better she comprehends your accent and other voice quirks.

Before Cortana it was difficult to compare Siri to other AI programs because she really was the first of her kind. Now that Siri has a rival, it’s easier to see the AI’s shortcomings. Let’s face it, Siri is much better when it comes to career-oriented tasks such as reminding you of an upcoming office meeting or sending an email to a coworker.

To put it simply, Siri thrives on helping you get that next promotion or raise. When asked, “Who are you?” Siri responds with a no-nonsense answer of “I’m Siri. But enough about me . . . how can I help you?” She’s just not interested in having a conversation. If you want a personal assistant that understands punctuation when composing a message by voice or something that can send an email or start a call, then Siri is your best bet.

Cortana: The New Girl on the Block

Cortana, on the other hand, is best for users that want a personal assistant for their everyday lives. A comical Microsoft commercial illustrates what Cortana can do what Siri can’t. For instance, Cortana can remind you to call a friend when you get home or help you recall what you need from the grocery store. In addition, a TechRadar comparison shows how sluggish Siri is compared to Cortana. This AI also is more likely to strike up a conversation, says Engadget, which adds the human quality that Siri lacks.

Unlike Siri, Cortana won’t be part of the operating system. Instead, she will be a downloadable app on the Windows Phone 8.1, says ZDNet. Microsoft has been working on Cortana since 2011 and hopes that she will be the beginning of responsive PCs. Imagine a world where you can prompt your computer via voice command to print a report or fax a document. According to ZDNet, Microsoft is definitely working towards this revolutionary technology.

If you’re still having trouble deciding between Siri and Cortana, consider Gizmodo’s description of the new AI: “Cortana is powered by Bing and is a mix of Google Now’s prediction powers injected with some Siri-like personality, and she has a lovely voice.” If you’re a sucker for soft-spoken female voices and want a witty digital personal assistant that can help you juggle your social life, then Cortana is the AI for you.

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