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Goodbye Xbox, 'Hey Cortana'

When the Windows 10 digital assistant Cortana arrives on the Xbox platform, get ready for real-language voice commands.

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Cortana comes to the Xbox One with this update.

Microsoft

We always knew Cortana was heading to Xbox One -- it was part of the strategy for the digital assistant as far back as 2013.

But Microsoft used its E3 2016 press conference to confirm that Cortana is poised to arrive with a host of updates, including a number of changes to community services with the addition of clubs and new game matchmaking.

When Cortana lands it will replace the traditional voice commands that Xbox gamers are able to use. So instead of just loudly saying "Xbox" to wake up the Kinect's voice recognition, you'll be able to say "Hey Cortana".

I saw a quick demonstration of an early build of the Xbox version of Cortana at E3 2016. Cortana's better ability to understand natural language was easy to see.

In the demo, Xbox's principal program manager Zachary Gutt was able to look up an Xbox Live friend by using their real name and asking Cortana what the friend "was up to". Cortana's contextual learning let him invite the friend to a game by just using their first name.

Searches for the opening hours for In-N-Out Burger revealed Cortana's web search capabilities. The Xbox team confirmed that Cortana commands will work for all of the new clubs, arena and looking for group features.

One very important feature of the demo was the lack of any Kinect. With Microsoft gradually phasing out the gesture control device since 2014, all the commands were being done via a gaming headset plugged into one of the new Xbox Wireless controllers. Anyone with a Kinect will be able to use it for Cortana, but otherwise "any good quality headset" will do the job as well.

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