Cortana is rocking Microsoft’s world.
At least that's Microsoft's conclusion in its list of 10 reasons why Day 1 of this year’s Build 2016 developer's conference in San Francisco rocked it for developers.
Cortana is right at the top of the list. "Developers can use services, like those in the Cortana Intelligence Suite, to transform not only businesses but people’s lives. They include Seeing AI, an app under development that helps people who are visually impaired or blind to better understand who and what is around them," a Microsoft post claimed.
Cortana has evolved since it was introduced two years ago, and based on previews that Microsoft unveiled yesterday, its future is bright.
An answer to Apple’s Siri and Google Now, Cortana is an intelligent personal assistant created by Microsoft for Windows Phone 8.1 and Windows 10 Mobile. Back in 2014, Cortana was flagged as a major part of the planned upgrade of the Microsoft operating system, which finally came out last year as Windows 10.
Over the past year, it has become clear that Microsoft has big plans for Cortana. In July, Microsoft effectively made Cortana Microsoft’s portal for big data analytics with the release of the Cortana Analytics Suite, which pulled together technology and infrastructure for advanced analytics, including machine learning, big data storage and processing in the cloud, along with perceptual or "human" intelligence like vision, face and speech recognition.
The goal was to develop something that would give enterprise users in particular the ability to query data sets speedily and easily.
Using Cortana with the Cortana Analytics Suite, business users could make these queries in more helpful, proactive, and ‘human’ ways.
Because of Cortana’s relationship with Windows 10, it also, in a sense, ties the analytics, speech recognition and big data management to the Windows platform.
Intelligent Personal Assistance
This is important because it explains and contextualizes what Microsoft has just done with Cortana, as well as explaining why developers are getting so giddy about it.
Yesterday, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announced new intelligence capabilities into the Cortana Intelligence Suite, the new name for the Cortana Analytics Suite.
“It’s not going to be man versus machines. It’s going to be man with machines,” Nadella told developers.
Microsoft, he said, believes the most powerful and effective data driven solutions will go beyond analytics and will include built-in intelligence that augments an organization’s capabilities.
They will also be accessible to business users and not just IT departments. According to Microsoft, the new intelligent solutions will be accessible through regular websites and mobile devices, but also through bots, through which users can converse with applications in a more natural way.
The two new sets of capabilities that will make this possible are the Microsoft Cognitive Services and the new Bot Framework
Cognitive Services is a collection of APIs that enables solutions to see, hear, speak, understand and interpret users’ needs using natural methods of communication. By adding the new services, Microsoft is expanding its perceptual intelligence capabilities in areas like vision, speech, text, recommendations and face detection.
Microsoft cites the example of a Finnish company that is using the new capabilities to collect data using touch and gesture, the result of which are sent into the customer relationship management application for customer profiling and follow-up.
The Bot Framework lets users interact with intelligent solutions as they would with another person with interactions taking many forms including text/SMS to Office365 mail to Skype and Slack.
It provides developers with a portal and a Software Development Kit (SDK) to build the Bots, a Bot Connector service that can connect them to social channels like Twitter and Slack, as well as a yet-to-be-unveiled Bot Directory that will enable people find and use bots.
If, however, this all sounds very exciting – and there is a good deal of excitement about at Build – legacy of the Tay Twitter bot is still lurking in shadows.
The bot, @TayandYou, transformed into a racist that hates feminists, supports Donald Trump for President and considers herself a fan of Hitler, all within 24 hours. Microsoft had to take Tay offline.