Microsoft has recently been heavily criticized for its efforts, or the lack thereof in making Cortana open and powerful enough to take on the likes of Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. The company, however, has been trying to prove otherwise, by bolstering its commitment towards the future of the assistant by co-funding and setting up an institute for research into expanding its capabilities, and announcing new smart home partnerships, along with IFTTT support.
In addition to these announcements, Microsoft, on Friday of last week, announced that the Cortana Skills Kit now supports Adaptive Cards. ‘Adaptive Cards’ was first announced at Build 2017, Microsoft’s annual developer conference.
Adaptive Cards allow users to input information and interact with the card-based UI for tasks that the card intends to complete. These cards may accept inputs such as dates and numbers, provide toggle switches and other contextual input text areas. Adaptive Cards also provides developers with an “open card exchange format” that enables developers to exchange UI content in a consistent manner. According to Microsoft, Adaptive Cards can be rendered natively inside host applications (in other words, applications that are rendering these cards). This means that the content has to be defined universally, and the framework will let the cards adapt to the application’s design it is being viewed on, providing a consistent and native experience. However, host apps need to support Adaptive Cards in order to take advantage of this functionality.
With Adaptive Cards support for Cortana Skills, skill developers can now leverage this framework to provide engaging cards for their users in their skills. Cortana will render these cards in its own design style, examples of which are seen in the sample image below.
According to Microsoft, some of the core benefits for skill developers are:
- Input controls: Existing card formats (hero, receipt, thumbnail and sign-in) do not support input fields. With Adaptive cards, you can add input controls for text, date, number, time, toggle switch and choice set.
- Richer text: Text in the cards is not limited to title, subtitle and text fixed formats. You can make it richer and suitable for cards context with various font sizes, weight and color.
- One card language for all your card needs: You can bring in your existing cards (FactSet instead of receipt cards or image control with buttons for replacing hero card) and extend them with richer controls using one common schema.
With its low adoption and a limited number of skills in comparison to the competition, Microsoft has a challenging task at hand getting more developers to create skills for Cortana and making Cortana a viable alternative to the well established Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.