"Hey Cortana, how many dollarydoos will it cost me to get to Bondi Beach?"
While it may take some time for Cortana to pick up the full Australian lexicon, Microsoft has announced that its "personal digital assistant" will be available on Windows 10 devices in Australia from today.
Just like Apple's voice assistant Siri, Microsoft's Cortana learns the speech patterns and preferences of individual users, answering questions and providing information gleaned from emails, calendar entries or the entire Internet. You can ask Cortana to respond to a text, look up your flight time or sing you a song, and now Cortana will respond in what Microsoft says is a distinctly Australian style.
While Cortana has been available to users in the States for some time, the assistant hasby those in Microsoft's Windows Insider Programme. Now, with the most recent update, Cortana is coming to all Windows 10 users in Australia (as well as Canada, Japan and India), with content and speech localised to suit the region.
"Designing an intelligent personal assistant for new markets requires abandoning a 'one-size fits all' approach, instead embracing local culture, humour and points of interest," said Marcus Ash, Group Program Manager for Cortana. "We recognise this in the development of Cortana, so our local teams talk to real users, study the culture and we adjust Cortana's personality accordingly to ensure she is everything Australian's want in a personal assistant."
According to Microsoft, that means Cortana will know all about indigenous legends, bushrangers and local sports stars, and this knowledge of Australia's "rich culture" will be woven into the assistant's everyday interactions with users. Want Cortana to sing you a song? Prepare to be regaled with "Click Go the Shears."
And while the digital assistant is named after an AI character in Microsoft's "Halo" franchise, voiced by American Jen Taylor, Cortana will also adopt a local accent in Australia, with a voice "inspired by the likes of Hollywood actresses Margot Robbie and Melissa George."
While Cortana's user interface will feel local, the basic machine learning underpinning the assistant will be the same as in other regions. It will aggregate Bing search results, calendar entries, contact details and email details to serve up answers. But Microsoft says "the more you use Cortana, the more personalised your experience will be," as it learns your natural language patterns, your interests and your digital schedule.
Cortana is available in Australia as part of Microsoft's Windows 10 upgrade. According to Microsoft, if you're already running Windows 10 you'll get this latest refresh according to your Windows Update Settings.