Special Features: Cortana takes on Google Now, Siri
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Special Features: Cortana takes on Google Now, Siri4:19 /
Smartphone assistants are prepped for battle! We get our hands on an early version of Cortana. Can she stand up to her foes?
[MUSIC] Hey, everyone. Jessical Dolcourt from Cnet here with an early look at Microsoft's Cortana Voice Assistant. In a minute, I'll show you how Cortana so far stacks up against Apple's Siri and Google Now. But first, a caveat or three. I've got Cortana on a pre-released version of Windows Phone 8.1. Not even the developers have this yet. Cortana is in Beta and gets her knowledge from a Hive Mind, that is the Cloud, which means that she isn't at her full capacity at this stage. Get it? Good. Now Cortana can do the same basic things that Siri, and Goggle Now a like. Call and text, set alarms, get directions, and search the web for practical answers to your questions. It'll take 41 hours and 20 minutes to drive to New York. Cortana can also tell you the weather, start a note and set reminders. For example, wake me up in an hour. [BLANK_AUDIO] [NOISE] Okay, I've set an alarm for 2:47 PM. Creating a calendar item is a snap, but you can't seem to vocally remove it if you change your mind. [SOUND]. Set an appointment for 5 PM for happy hour. [NOISE] Add happy hour to your calendar for today at 5 PM. Cancel my appointment for 5:00 pm tonight. Happy hour. [SOUND] You have one event today at 5:00 pm, happy hour. This is something you can do with Siri, though. Shall I remove it from your calendar? [SOUND] Yes. [SOUND] Okay, Jessica I took it off your calendar. Beyond The Basics Cortana has other tricks as well. Unlike Siri Cortana can open apps, and turn on phone settings like, [SOUND] turn on WiFi. [SOUND] WiFi is now on. Thanks. Cortana also has built-in song recognition to [UNKNOWN]. [MUSIC] Google now does this a little bit better since it hooks you straight into the Google Play Store. Like Google Now, you can ask Cortana to track your flights and tell you when you leave for appointments. You turn on both of these in the settings. One unique feature about Cortana can do, is run interference on calls and texts when you're sleeping, or in a meeting. Microsoft calls these quiet hours. Where Microsoft toots it's own horn, is in the way that Cortana understands contexts. For instance if you tell it, next time I talk to my sister, remind me to tell her about my vacation plans. Then the next time we text or call a reminder should pop up. Sure thing. [SOUND] [BLANK_AUDIO] By the way, you can set relationships in settings under Inner Circle. This is something you can do in Siri as well. Another neat trick is being able to make follow up demands, like when you're making a reservation. [SOUND] Show me 3 star Japanese restaurants. [BLANK_AUDIO] Here are 10 Japanese restaurants that are 3 stars. How far is number 3? [BLANK_AUDIO] It'll take 4 minutes to drive to Sushi Fantastic. It's less than a mile away. How long will it take me to walk? [NOISE] It'll take 6 minutes to walk to Sushi Fantastic. When it comes to having a cheeky personality, it's pretty easy to beat Google now. That thing is a software robot. Siri is a snarkier contender, but it really depends on what you say. What's the story of Halo? [BLANK_AUDIO] Standard Halo artifacts are around 10,000 kilometers in diameter, until the chief blows them up, that is. At this point, Cortana seems to be a pretty good blend of Google Now and Siri. However, it's Bing-based search results don't seem quite as convenient as Google Now, and you do have a press a button every time you want to speak. But Cortana does have some promising integration with the rest of the phones that bridges with both Siri and Google can do. Things will get even more interesting as developers jump into the mix with Cortana commands that will work with their own apps as well. We'll have much more on Cortana as the voice assistant develops over time. In the meantime, I'm Jessica Dolcourt for C|net. You can catch my thorough comparison among Cortana, Google now, and Siri at cnet.com. [MUSIC]