In a new blog post Microsoft has talked about the development of Cortana on Windows and Windows Phone and how the personal assistant had to be adapted from her gaming roots. The 'People' story talks about how the in-game character was transformed to be the voice of Windows, powered by Bing, and what had to be done to alter her personality to create a truly helpful yet charming persona.
Bonnie Ross, corporate vice president and head of 343 Industries, says that Cortana is "like a seed in 2014 of what we'll be able to do in the future. This is a v1 of an AI." Actually Cortana alluded to this in beta, on Windows Phone, if you asked about her name: "I am named after Cortana, the AI from Halo. Or since she's from 500 years in the future, she may have named herself after me."
Despite being 'v1' Cortana has received quite a few favourable reviews and accolades. Microsoft, of course, claims many great things of the personal assistant. However she has had recognised success in other avenues such as correctly predicting the winners of the first 14 matches of the 2014 FIFA World Cup knockout stage, for example.
Cortana was chosen as the AI assistant for Windows due to parallels in her role in the Halo games. Frank O'Connor, Franchise Development Director at 343 Industries, described her as "a narrator, an expositor of information… [who] knows more about the universe than you do". Voice of Cortana Jen Taylor added that "She's your second. She's backing you up all the time, and that is incredibly attractive as a human in any capacity."
However 343 Industries wasn't very keen to share Cortana with the Windows team at first. The developers of the Halo universe were understandably worried about another creative team changing Cortana too much. Susan Hendrich, principle program manager lead for Windows Phone, explained how Cortana was made to fit in with her initial role on Windows Phone: "We took pieces of Cortana's personality, and we applied them. We made her more confident. We made her a little bit more witty. We dialed up a couple of her personality traits." The Microsoft blog notes that some things were dialled down; attitude was turned down a notch or two and any critical, snide overtones to her responses were also toned down – to make her a more happy and helpful character.
Even if you don't have a Windows Phone with access to Cortana she might become part of your daily computing life in the near future. Cortana is touted as an important way in which users will interact with Windows 10. We will hear a lot more about that, we expect, as well as lots of other Windows 10 details tomorrow, at the media briefing in Seattle.