How Cortana and Alexa will be a match made in AI heaven

How Cortana and Alexa will be a match made in AI heaven

Microsoft and Amazon announce partnership

Yesterday, Microsoft and Amazon have made one hell of an announcement, revealing that their digital assistants will soon be integrated with one another and will both take advantage of their unique “skills”. There’s still a race among most of the tech leaders to expand in voice as fast as possible. Besides Alexa and Cortana, there’s also Apple’s Siri, Google’s Assistant and, new to the party, Samsung’s Bixby. A driving force in getting people comfortable with these AI devices has been Amazon, which has been shipping a variety of Echo speakers and adding Alexa compatibility into well over 1,000 third-party devices and applications from light bulbs to heating systems.

Because of this competition I was surprised to hear that Microsoft and Amazon have clearly concluded that 1+1 can equate to far more than 2 by bringing together the best of Cortana on Windows 10 and Alexa on Amazon devices such as their Echo and Dot.

Taking AI to the next level

“Ensuring Cortana is available for our customers everywhere and across any device is a key priority for us,” explained Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella today. “Bringing Cortana’s knowledge, Office 365 integration, commitments and reminders to Alexa is a great step toward that goal.”

Using Alexa from Cortana will just require users to say “Hey Cortana, open Alexa.” Whilst this integration won’t be enabled until towards the end of 2017, Microsoft has explained how the collaboration between the two digital assistants will make everyone’s life a bit easier. For example:

Windows 10 users using Cortana will be able to ask Cortana to open Alexa, and from there will be able to shop on Amazon and manage their orders just as they would on an Alexa-powered device.

Microsoft says that Cortana users will also be able to access “many of Alexa’s third-party skills,” which is great as Amazon’s digital assistant already works with a lot of different services: news apps, smart home apps, music, health services and so on.

For Alexa users, the Cortana integration will be equally as functional. Users of devices such as Echo and Dot will be able to say “Alexa, open Cortana,” and fro there consumers will be able to ask any question to the digital assistant, get information about upcoming meetings, create reminders and use Cortana’s many other productivity features.

Microsoft has said that the Alexa integration on Cortana will be available first on Windows 10 PCs, followed by Apple Android devices later. Cortana will be available on the Amazon Echo, Echo Dot and Echo Show later this year.

It remains to be seen how these will bring benefits to business applications but I’d imagine this is just the start…..

Rob Quickenden, Chief Strategy Officer at Cisilion