Microsoft to Bring Cortana Digital Assistant to iOS and Android This Year

Microsoft revealed more information on plans to move their personal digital assistant, named Cortana, to iOS and Android devices.

A competitor to Google Now and Apple’s Siri, Cortana is one of the most popular features found on Windows Phones, a voice search with a personality, capable of some fairly sophisticated actions when using casual speech commands. I’m a huge fan of person and location based reminders. Microsoft says we’ll see standalone Cortana apps for other phone platforms this Autumn.

“This kind of technology, which can read and understand email, will play a central role in the next roll out of Cortana, which we are working on now for the fall time frame,” said Eric Horvitz, managing director of Microsoft Research.

It’s a smart move which plays to Microsoft’s strengths in delivering services with as broad a reach as possible, converting consumers using competitor’s hardware into customers through software and apps. I’ll always be a fan of more competition, especially when you can go cross platform. Maybe someday I’ll even get that IBM Watson app I’ve been wanting…

We’ll learn more about Microsoft’s strategy later this year.

(via Reuters)

Google Beats Facebook for AI Company DeepMind, Pays $500 Million

Google_logoDoes anyone else think this company missed out on a terrific opportunity to name their AI “Deep Thought”? Anyone? 42? Is this thing on [tap, tap, tap]?

Beating out Facebook with a $500 Million dollar bid, Google is now the proud owner of DeepMind, a company focused on creating algorithms which will help computers learn in a way which resembles human experience. Artificial intelligence. Now, most people are linking this to Google’s recent acquisition of Boston Dynamics as if we’re all on the cusp of a Skynet inspired apocalypse. While I’m sure learning algorithms would be a tremendous boon to the robotics community after watching excerpts from the DARPA Robotics Challenge, it was very clear that we’re a LONG way off from Skynet or Asimov’s robots, there are a number of other projects at Google HQ which could also benefit from some good old fashioned learnin’

Improving the responses of automated, self-driving cars for instance. Making those systems more flexible and adaptable to changing road and traffic conditions.

Watson's_avatarGoogle is first and foremost an information broker.

Search will continue to be an ever increasing issue as we dump more and more info into this giant bucket we call the internet. Google is now facing incredible competition from companies like IBM with their Watson project. A computer system which isn’t self-aware, but is able to adapt, add information, and make sense of casual instructions and commands to deliver meaningful results. If Google doesn’t start working on a similar program, they’ll find themselves disasterously behind. Given a choice between Siri, Google Now, and Watson, I know I’d prefer to send my search query to the computer who spanked the crap out of the top two most winning Jeopardy contestants in that show’s history.

We instantly assume that working on aspects of Artificial Intelligence means that we’ll flip a switch someday and all our machines will have distinct personalities. What will most likely happen first is more likely to be painfully dull for the general populace. Purpose built computing systems which are subtly, but noticeably better at their individual jobs. Think of a WHOLE animal brain, so many different pieces to regulate and control various aspects of an organism’s life. We’re a LONG way off from poorly replicating the human frontal lobe. We’re a LONG way off from building a system which could rival a house cat’s ability to problem solve and learn tricks.

Let’s not forget that Google’ main competition for acquiring DeepMind was Facebook, a company that failed to put out a branded phone. If there were any more reassuring fact that we wont see this AI in some near-future skeletal doomsday robot warrior, it’s the fact that Facebook is most likely looking for better systems to sift through user data, not to operate machinery.

So when Google flips the switch and we all get slightly better turn by turn recommendations, when predictive search results and ads are a little better targeted at our needs, we can all shrug a sigh of relief. However, if I’m wrong, allow me to be the first to welcome our future robot overlords. I’d make a fantastic liaison officer in your new world paradigm where humans are kept like cattle for some unexplainable but dramatic reason.

Petition to keep “Cortana” as the name of Microsoft’s Voice Asisstant.

halo-4-cortanaHere’s a petition I can wholeheartedly support.

We recently found out that Microsoft was working on a Google Now / Siri competitor, and we also know that the code name for the project is ‘Cortana’, which is a terrific little nod to XBox fans. Cortana is the name of the AI which aids players in the popular HALO franchise of video games.

Well, people know a good thing when they hear it and an industrious Halo and/or Windows Phone fan has left a suggestion on Microsoft’s official feedback site. ‘Keep Cortana as the Name of the Personal Assistant’ is already over 1500 votes, and I was proud to add my name to that list.

Microsoft has always had a reputation for lacking synergy between the various teams working on various products and services. This could be a nice, if a bit tongue in cheek, way to signal some cooperation between the XBox, Windows, and Windows Phone teams.