"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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