Meet Cortana, Microsoft's creepy new answer to Siri

This digital assistant learns and stores your interests -- from food choices to news preferences

Sarah Gray
March 5, 2014 3:01AM (UTC)

Spike Jonze's gently dystopian future in "Her" is inching closer to reality. In April, Microsoft will be unveiling its Windows Phone 8.1 update, complete with a voice-activated assistant similar to Apple's Siri or Google Now. Leaked photos from The Verge, along with a video from Unleash the Phones, pull back the curtain on what is currently being called "Cortana," after a character from the popular  "Halo" series of video games.

Based on the clip below, Cortana will be a Live Tile (a tile that serves as both an app and information interface), and will require a Microsoft account to operate. The (rather polite) animated orb will address you by whatever nickname you give it — much like Siri — and will be able to access your email, handle calls and texts while on do-not-disturb, and learn about you by storing the answers to a series of setup questions in its Notebook. Given enough data, Cortana will be able to offer suggestions, schedule appointments and create alerts, in an attempt to anticipate your needs. (And no, the video's sound isn't malfunctioning; we still don't know what Cortana will sound like.)


Next month, when it officially rolls out, we'll know if Cortana is just Microsoft making up for its three-year lag (Siri was introduced in 2011), or if it could actually surpass its competitors. Who knows? It may be time to break out Theodore Twombly's high-waisted pants.

Sarah Gray

Sarah Gray is an assistant editor at Salon, focusing on innovation. Follow @sarahhhgray or email

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