In recent months, we've reported on a couple of Cortana-related Microsoft patents being published. These include a patent for silent voice commands, and one that envisions voice-input integration for the digital assistant with third-party apps.
In other Cortana-related news, a new app for the digital assistant was discovered on the Microsoft Store last month, and it began working for Insiders last week. The big difference it offers in terms of experience is that its not attached to the Taskbar, as in its current form, and that it will be updated separately from Windows 10.
Now, a newly published patent may offer some insight as to what features Microsoft plans to introduce to the digital assistant. The patent describes an automated quick task notification system that can make it much easier for users to respond to task requests. Notably, however, a number of references have been made to the tech being leveraged through a personal digital assistant, though its usage isn't only limited to that.
Microsoft believes that managing tasks on any device can be quite an inefficient process since there's no single user interface that can help users quickly attend to the growing backlog of pending tasks. For this reason, the tech giant has patented an an audio channel quick task system that essentially handles notification and subsequent actions for all tasks that need to be performed.
It initially extracts quick task from a variety of digital content, that could include emails, text messages, social media posts, to-do lists, word-processing documents, and the like. Users are then informed through an audio message that a certain item requires their attention, and depending upon the response, various actions could immediately be executed. Microsoft has specifically noted its usage alongside digital assistants. As an example, one technique that could be employed would be Cortana prioritizing tasks based upon pre-decided metrics and presenting users with higher-ranked tasks first. It could also provide these services based on the information it has gathered regarding a user, making the actions more personalized.
The major difference to note here is, that while some applications or digital assistants do already offer the capability to remind users about tasks, and to perform actions based on the reminders, there's no single system that not only recognizes required engagements from a variety of applications, but also enables user to respond to them using the same interface. A description of how this process would occur can be observed in the diagram below.
However, this doesn't simply serve as a solution for handling of all possible tasks. The system will itself only select the ones that can be further processed upon by users in the form of a limited amount of actions, or in other words, quick tasks. Other metrics that could satisfy this threshold include the amount of data that would need to be presented. For example, a report that requires approval may also need the user to thoroughly review an accompanying document. In this case, the audio quick task system obviously won't be a suitable tool to help perform this task.
A slightly similar idea was patented by Microsoft a couple of days ago, though that had more to do with collaborative work, rather than a system incorporated with personalized digital assistants. In any case, this patent was filed last year, and it may still end up getting integrated with the new Cortana app. But, there's currently no guarantee that the company is working upon or plans to work upon it any time soon.