New Microsoft Patent Shows Cortana Parsing Messages and Context
Microsoft filed a patent this week that would upgrade its Cortana voice assistant to make it easier to converse with. The improvements would have Cortana be better able to parse messages and sum them up for the user, without having to read out the entire message every time.
Understanding Emails and Messages
The patent essentially lays out a way for Cortana to be more human in how it interprets messages and conveys information to the recipient. It’s all laid out in the image from the patent up top. The jogging woman receives an email from her boss, another email about checking into a flight, and a message asking for her resume. Cortana isn’t reading each incoming message out verbatim, just summarizing what is in them and who it is from. When the woman asks what her boss wants, the voice assistant grasps who she is referring to and what message she wants more information from. The conversational flow doesn’t sound like a human talking to an AI, but to another human who can understand the context of the conversation. As the image shows, the messages can be from a variety of sources, not just email or text messages.
The patent paints a picture of a future version of Cortana that is more flexible and helpful than the current iteration. Streamlining how it conveys messages and being able to respond in a more natural style would be great for users. What is particularly worth noting is how two of the three messages in the example are connected to jobs and business endeavors and the flight might be for a business trip as well. That would fit with the ongoing evolution of Cortana into a business and enterprise-focused tool.
Microsoft has already laid out the end of the Cortana app for Android and iOS everywhere except the U.S., where its usefulness for experimentation and support for the Surface Headphones is keeping it alive. Instead, Cortana is integrating into business and productivity apps as a part of Office 365. Cortana is now part of the Outlook app, for example. Cortana will also be a key part of the new Surface Earbuds, which are expected to arrive in the spring. The earbuds cost $250, more than many competitors, but offer direct compatibility with Office 365 via Cortana. The patent’s images describe another way Cortana would serve through the earbuds as a kind of tether to the office, even when on the run. Patents aren’t products, but this one does suggest some idea of how Microsoft will apply Cortana in its new business model.