Google has been talking for years about “building the Star Trek computer,” a conversational machine that understands and naturally communicates answers to spoken questions. The company has been making incremental progress toward that objective. But with the launch of Cortana on the PC, Microsoft may have leaped ahead.
Microsoft’s new holographic goggles, HoloLens, and digital assistant Cortana were the clear stars of last week’s Windows 10 event. And as Microsoft prepares to roll the new PC operating system it’s interesting to consider the future of web search in a world of emerging digital assistants.
(Google’s Voice Search is available on the PC but offers limited functionality. Siri is not yet on Apple’s PC operating system but will likely come to it later this year or early next year.)
Bing provides the “intelligence engine” or “intelligence fabric” at the center of Cortana, which is a stack of technology and capabilities, including speech recognition, natural language understanding and an index of information from which to provide answers.
Cortana is, in a sense, a new entry point for Bing as well. However Cortana, Google Now and Siri reflect the emergence of a broader usage paradigm, which transcends search, first suggested by Siri before Apple acquired the technology.
Despite being late to the party, Microsoft has denied that Cortana is a “me too” product or was a direct response to Siri or Google Now. The technology behind Cortana has been evolving within Microsoft for years, chiefly in the area of speech recognition and natural language understanding. Google has some of the same deep technology assets as Microsoft. However Apple does not; Siri is a relatively thin capability that could fall increasingly behind (without acquisitions) as the digital assistant arms race gains momentum.
Following last week’s Windows 10 announcement I had the opportunity to speak with Microsoft search engineers Ryan …read more