"Hey Cortana": Microsoft announces hands-free launching for its Windows Phone assistant

Cortana has been a huge success so far during its fairly limited rollout in the US, but Microsoft's truly personal digital assistant is now rolling out to the UK and China as well. In fact, her passport will be getting a few extra stamps in the next few months, as Windows Phone 8.1 Update will introduce support - as an early 'alpha release' - in India, Canada and Australia. 

Microsoft is working hard to improve the Cortana experience - not just by adding fun features like predicting the winners of NFL games - but also by making the assistant easier and quicker to use. 

Today, the company announced "Hey Cortana", a new hands-free activation feature, which can launch the assistant without having to go through the steps of unlocking your device and holding the Search button to launch it.

To put it another way, this is Microsoft's version of "OK Google", and it appears that this now means that Windows Phones have the facility to always be 'listening' for user commands, in the same way that Android devices now do. 

'Hey Cortana' will be available on Windows Phone 8.1 with the new Lumia Denim update in Q4. 

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Wow not one mention in the article about possible privacy concerns about it always listening or how it's doing it and if the data ever leaves the handset.

CORRECTION: Only the Moto X has always-on-even-when-phone-is-switched-off listening. Nexus devices need to be unlocked. And less said the better about other Droids.

I'm sort of torn on this but I'd really like the software to be listening all the time, rather than just when you wake up the display. Lost count of the times I've gone to bed turned lights off, etc and got comfortable only to realise I needed to set a reminder or an alarm or something. It'd be amazing to just lie there and bark something like "Hey Cortana. Remind me to pick up milk tomorrow at 8am" or something similar, without even having to move.

Odd that they chose the same phrasing as Apple's "Hey Siri". http://thenextweb.com/apple/2014/06/02/apple-announces-hands-free-hey-siri-ios-8-shazam-song-recognition-22-new-dictation-languages/

Yeah because Apple invented the word hey

I was kind of hoping it would be ATTENTION, CORTANA (requires you to yell)

Enron said,
Yeah because Apple invented the word hey

I was kind of hoping it would be ATTENTION, CORTANA (requires you to yell)

My vote is for "Yo, Cortana!"

Maybe Microsoft will let us set an activation phrase!

Blackberry has announced Gertrude voice assistant, activated by saying "Pardon me, Gertrude" and then typing in the question with the keyboard.

I've never been a fan of windows mobile, but got a works nokia last week.

Yesterday I updated to 8.1 (damn, took over an hour) but can't find cortana? any ideas guys

This wouldn't work for me...

Cortana: "It is time to wake up. It is time to wake up"
Majesticmerc's brain: "INTRUDER ALERT. DESTROY THE STRANGER!"

I don't see why they couldn't do this. The same old Toast Notifications popping up as 'Cortana' Reminders is pretty lame.

Jen Taylor could record a batch of phrases that would be suitable for Airport, Wake Up, and various other Reminders.

Mugwump00 said,
What if you don't have a Lumia?

I'm guessing it's a simple API that any OEM can use/turn on. You just need to update the firmware to support having the microphone always on to listen for the command.

nice feature for those lucky enough living in the current 3 countrys that Cortana supports.....

Any update when it/she will be available e.g. in Germany?

They're busy, making her do important things like...impressions :/

I'd be happy if they just decoupled the rather vital Quiet Hours/Inner Circle feature away from her. That was a silly decision.