Apr 09, 2014

What’s the difference between Siri and Cortana?

Obviously both are voice command operated “personal assistants,” but do they do different things beyond the fact that one works on Apple iPhones and one working on Windows phones?

Cortana vs. Siri vs. Google Now: An early look at how Cortana stacks up (hands-on)

"Cortana may not be the game-changer that Microsoft hopes it to be -- at least not at this stage -- but the voice assistant more than holds it own against it chief rivals Siri and Google Now. Microsoft is on the right track in letting developers connect it with third-party apps, but also needs to fix certain glaring holes, like Cortana's ability to recognize spoken punctuation.

Quibbles aside, Cortana is off to a strong start; now it's up to Microsoft to develop a range of truly innovative features that will push Cortana beyond Apple and Google's reach."

The first thing is that Cortana is like a memory come to life for people who played Halo on the Xbox. Cortana was like a virtual person who helped Master Chief in the single player game. Siri doesn’t have that kind of street cred with me - Cortana and I have a history. 


Aside from that, judging from press reports of Cortana demonstrations, Microsoft has refined the manner in which speech recognition and the use of deep neural networks (DNNs) to understand what people actually want. Siri does this too, but Cortana seems to do it better. We will see for sure once Cortana is available, but it seems that Cortana is very good at following a line of questions naturally, so that a follow-up question is related to the previous question without requiring the user to perform verbal gymnastics.


One area where Cortana seems more like Google Now than Siri is using information to determine what you want and performing tasts. Not only does it take things like your search history, it looks at where you are, what your habits are, your on device activity, etc. to more fully understand what you (probably) want. Microsoft is also releasing Cortana APIs so that developers can integrate the features with their apps. Depending on how much developers embrace this, it could really deepen the integration of Cortana with your actual use of your Windows Phone device. 


I’m an Android user, but I’m interested to see how Cortana works in the real world. At this point, it looks like Microsoft has potentially created something that could be class leading.

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