Microsoft Says Cortana Will Have a Bi-Monthly Update Cycle

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Microsoft Says Cortana Will Have a Bi-Monthly Update Cycle
Cortana, Microsoft's answer to Apple Siri and Google Now, will be updated twice a month. The Redmond giant at the Build 2014 conference had revealed that it has plans to release the Windows Phone 8.1 virtual assistant to China and UK in the second half of 2014, while it might reach other countries by 2015. It is currently available in the US in beta mode.

Other than the frequent update schedule, the company will also make exceptions for special events. Susan Hendrich, the project manager in charge of Cortana personality, speaking to Engadget that they are working on ways to throw in off-cycle updates "for things that are timely, urgent or especially badass."

So for the trending topics like the Olympics, breaking news or even sports, Microsoft can easily upload these batches of data strings and voice recordings directly, without having to send out an OS update since Cortana's pages are rendered in HTML5.

To make the voice-based virtual assistant more human-like and keeping different needs in mind from users, Hendrich says Microsoft has ensured Cortana features sufficient artificial intelligence (AI) attributes to be able to strike up casual conversations with users.

One study used by Microsoft showed that 40 percent of interactions with personal assistant is spent on "chitchat," and to make interaction with Cortana more natural, the company has ensured the virtual assistant will be able to do that.

The company said it even interviewed real-life assistants to understand how they interact with their bosses, and other details like what makes them successful. "[It] helped us understand how humans take on that role [of a personal assistant]," Hendrich said.

Microsoft wants Cortana to sound less robotic, so it is using the partial voice of Jen Taylor, who voice Cortana in the video game series Halo. The company even refers to Cortana as 'she'.

"We did some research and found that people are more likely to interact with when it feels more human," said Hendrich. "She's [Cortana] eager to learn and can be downright funny, peppering her answers with banter or a comeback. She seeks familiarity, but her job is to be a personal assistant."
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