Cortana, what is your future? A new institute is exploring the options

To paraphrase a quote from Mark Twain, the rumors of Cortana's impending demise have been greatly exaggerated. Microsoft Research has joined forces with the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Australia to find out just how much further the digital assistant can be developed.

The co-funded collaboration, called the Cortana Intelligence Institute, combines members from Cortana Research within Microsoft's Research group and RMIT's information retrieval experts to "inject new thinking in what we build," according to Andrew Shuman, corporate vice president of Cortana Engineering.

The new institute will be to look at context to understand the tasks that people do on a daily basis. The reason for that revolves around a future where Cortana could be asked to help with cooking or other chores, which would necessitate the assistant to be able to handle multiple steps, be aware of its surroundings, and also have a meaningful exchange with users.

From the RMIT side, the team hopes to learn "the physical activity and location of the user, their online and app behavior, and their interactions with their social groups or peers in order to understand the tasks they are working on and intend to complete." The end result - better algorithms for Cortana to use - will make the assistant able to think ahead and better exemplify human characteristics.

The move further exemplifies Microsoft's ongoing commitment to Cortana, which has been under the microscope of late given her severe shortage of skills when compared to Amazon's Alexa, and the slower-than-expected integration of Alexa into Cortana's functionality.

Source: Microsoft Research Blog

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