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Amazon’s Alexa to chat up Microsoft’s Cortana

Amazon and Microsoft have forged a partnership that will allow their voice-controlled virtual assistants to talk to each.

Starting later this year, users of Amazon’s Alexa will be able to ask Microsoft’s Cortana to do a range of activities, from booking a meeting to reading work email. 

Cortana users will be able to call on Alexa to play music, order an Uber or turn on their house lights.

 

Starting later this year, users of Amazon’s Alexa will be able to ask Microsoft’s Cortana to do a range of activities, from booking a meeting to reading work email. Cortana users will be able to call on Alexa to play music, order an Uber or turn on their house lights

WHAT THE PARTNERSHIP MEANS 

The collaboration will soon allow users to access Alexa via Cortana on Windows 10 PCs, followed by Android and iOS in the future. 

And also for the first time, Cortana will be able to be accessed using Alexa-enabled devices like the Amazon Echo, Echo Dot and Echo Show.

Users will be able to turn to their Echo device and say, ‘Alexa, open Cortana,’ or turn to their Windows 10 device and say, ‘Cortana, open Alexa,’ the companies said in a statement.

After successfully getting their voice assistant summon the other, users can they say a command.

Alexa customers will be able to access Cortana’s unique work-related features like booking meetings, accessing work calendars or reading your work email.

Similarly, Cortana customers can now make use of Alexa’s skills in controlling smart home devices as well access more than 20,000 skills built for the Amazon voice assistant by third-party developers. 

 

‘Together, their strengths will complement each other and provide customers with a richer and even more helpful experience,’ Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos said in a statement on Wednesday. 

The collaboration will soon allow users to access Alexa via Cortana on Windows 10 PCs, followed by Android and iOS in the future. 

And also for the first time, Cortana will be able to be accessed using Alexa-enabled devices like the Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, and Echo Show.

Users will be able to turn to their Echo device and say, ‘Alexa, open Cortana,’ or turn to their Windows 10 device and say, ‘Cortana, open Alexa,’ the companies said in a statement.

After successfully getting their voice assistant summon the other, users can they say a command.

In the future, Bezos believes Cortana and Alexa will get become smart enough to direct a request to the proper assistant.

Alexa customers will be able to access Cortana’s unique work-related features like booking meetings, accessing work calendars, and reading work emails.

Similarly, Cortana customers will be able to make use of Alexa’s skills in controlling smart home devices, as well access more than 20,000 skills built for the Amazon voice assistant by third-party developers.

Cortana customers will even be able to shop on Amazon.com. 

Alexa, Cortana and other virtual assistants are known to use data from their own walled gardens and not talk to each other. The move to team up is unusual, as the voice assistants are one the most important emerging technologies

Alexa, Cortana and other virtual assistants are known to use data from their own walled gardens and not talk to each other. The move to team up is unusual, as the voice assistants are one the most important emerging technologies

‘Ensuring Cortana is available for our customers everywhere and across any device is a key priority for us,’ said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.

‘Bringing Cortana’s knowledge, Office 365 integration, commitments, and reminders to Alexa is a great step toward that goal.’

The two companies realized the others’ voice-assistants had skills and features their own lacked.

On the Microsoft blog, the company’s own Corporate Vice President of Cortana Engineering, Andrew Shuman, said he would frequently have to use Alexa for certain tasks he couldn’t accomplish with Cortana.

‘I talk to Cortana every day — at home, work and on-the-go — to get information about my day, to set reminders so I don’t forget things, and to answer my questions. But I don’t just use one digital assistant,’ he wrote.

‘I also frequently talk to Alexa to listen to audio books or to add things to my shopping list.’

Alexa is mostly used in Echo devices that sit on surfaces throughout the home, whereas Cortana is mostly used on PCs. 

The partnership marks the first time two technology companies have opened up their artificial intelligence-powered virtual aides to each other.

It will also give Amazon access to about 500 million Windows 10 users. 

Bezos raised the idea with Nadella in May 2016 at Microsoft's annual CEO summit in Seattle, then initiating it further by forwarding Nadella a draft of a news release describing how Alexa and Cortana could work together

Bezos raised the idea with Nadella in May 2016 at Microsoft’s annual CEO summit in Seattle, then initiating it further by forwarding Nadella a draft of a news release describing how Alexa and Cortana could work together

HOW THE DEAL WENT DOWN 

Amazon and Microsoft have been coordinating behind the scenes to make their voice assistants communicate for over a year. 

Bezos raised the idea with Nadella in May 2016 at Microsoft’s annual CEO summit in Seattle, then initiating it further by forwarding Nadella a draft of a news release describing how Alexa and Cortana could work together. 

That pitch was part of what Amazon calls its ‘working backwards process,’ in which the teams use writing to depict how an idea will appear to customers before they make it. 

The Amazon founder has not invited Google or Apple to collaborate on voice assistants, but he said he’d ‘welcome it.’ 

Alexa, Cortana and other virtual assistants such as Apple’s Siri and Alphabet’s Google Assistant are known to use data from their own walled gardens and not talk to each other.

The move to team up is unusual, as voice assistants are one the biggest emerging technologies.

Microsoft, Amazon, Apple, Google and nearly every other big tech company has been pouring money into developing these AI assistants, trying to make them smarter than the those of the competitions. 

But Bezos and Nadella grew concerned that keeping the assistants rivals would hold the companies back. 

In an interview with The New York Times, Bezos predicted a future where people turn to these AI assistants with questions like they currently talk to friends or other nearby humans.  

‘I want them to have access to as many of those AIs as possible,’ he said. 

While Cortana’s strength lies in getting things done at work, Alexa helps users to control their smart homes and shop from the online retailer.

‘The world is big and so multifaceted – There are going to be multiple successful intelligent agents, each with access to different sets of data and with different specialized skill areas,’ Bezos said. 

‘Together, their strengths will complement each other and provide customers with a richer and even more helpful experience.’ 

‘It’s great for Echo owners to get easy access to Cortana.’

'The world is big and so multifaceted - There are going to be multiple successful intelligent agents, each with access to different sets of data and with different specialized skill areas,' Bezos said

‘The world is big and so multifaceted – There are going to be multiple successful intelligent agents, each with access to different sets of data and with different specialized skill areas,’ Bezos said

Nadella echoed this, comparing the two voice assistants to different browsers that can access the same information.

‘The personality and expertise of each one will be such that if they interoperated, the user will get more out of it,’ he said.

‘That resonated for me and for him, and then that’s what led to the teams working.’

Shuman said the same: ‘I’m excited that we’re adding more value and choice for consumers and developers alike.’

Amazon and Microsoft have been coordinating behind the scenes to make their voice assistants communicate for over a year. 

Bezos raised the idea with Nadella in May 2016 at Microsoft’s annual CEO summit in Seattle, then initiating it further by forwarding Nadella a draft of a news release describing how Alexa and Cortana would work together. 

That pitch was part of what Amazon calls its ‘working backwards process,’ in which the teams use writing to depict how an idea will appear to customers before they make it. 

The Amazon founder has not invited Google or Apple to collaborate on voice assistants, but he said he’d ‘welcome it.’ 

‘Hopefully, they’ll be inspired by it,’ Nadella said.

‘At least that would be my hope.’ 

The Amazon founder has not invited Google or Apple to collaborate on voice assistants, but he said he'd 'welcome it'

The Amazon founder has not invited Google or Apple to collaborate on voice assistants, but he said he’d ‘welcome it’

The idea that all of the major tech firms would integrate their voice assistants, however, seems unlikely.

Apple especially is known for wanting to control every aspect of what its users experience.

‘There’s no reason Google or Apple would offer it because they’re trying to drive their own ecosystems,’ Jan Dawson, an analyst with technology research firm Jackdaw Research, told The New York Times.  

Microsoft launched Cortana – which runs on Windoes 10 –  in May 2015 and says it has 145 million active monthly users.

Amazon launched first introduced Alexa months earlier in Novemebr 2014.

The firm’s echo devices account for 70 percent of smart speakers sold, according eMarketer.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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