Microsoft to bring Cortana to IoT devices with screens in 2017

Microsoft's Windows 10 Creators Update, coming next year, will include the ability for Cortana to work from across the room with certain IoT devices -- but only those with screens.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Microsoft plans to add Cortana support to Windows 10 IoT Core devices with screens as part of its Windows 10 Creators Update release.

Credit: Microsoft

That's according to information Microsoft officials provided to the company's OEM partners at WinHEC 2016 in Shenzhen last week, in a session titled "Cortana and the Speech Platform,"

Microsoft Principal Program Manager May Ji outlined the ways that Microsoft wants its PC and device partners to make use of new "Wake on Voice from Modern Standby" and "Far-field Voice" support that's being added to Windows 10 with the Creators Update that's due out in the Spring of 2017.

Wake on Voice from Modern Standby is a feature that allows Cortana to turn on PCs from off to a full-powered state on devices with Windows 10 "Modern Standby" power-management support. Far-field voice is what will allow Cortana to work in rooms with ambient noise at a distance of up to 13 feet/4 meters away.

The Cortana on Windows 10 IoT Core rollout, which could lag by a few months the rollout of Windows 10 Creators Update for PCs and phones (if history is any indication) will begin with Cortana in English for the US and UK markets, she said, with additional language support coming over time.

With the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, which Microsoft released in early August 2016, Microsoft provided a first step toward making Cortana work better with PCs from afar. The "immersive Cortana experience" in Windows 10 Anniversary allowed Cortana to work above the lockscreen. With the Creators Update, Microsoft plans to make these kinds of capabilities more robust, as Windows Insiders running test build 14986 on PCs began seeing last week.

While some company watchers are expecting the addition of Far-field Voice to enable OEMs to build Windows-based devices similar to Amazon's Echo and Google's Home, Ji made it clear during her session that Microsoft's focus -- even with devices running the Internet of Things (IoT) Core version of Windows 10 -- will be to have Cortana work on devices with screens, not those without screens.

The IoT Core version of Windows 10 is Microsoft's Windows 10 variant for small, embedded Intel- and ARM-based devices that may or may not have screens, such as the Raspberry Pi 2 and MinnowBoard Max boards. Windows 10 IoT Core also is meant for running smaller, low-cost industry devices like IoT gateways, officials have said.

In a slide presented during her WinHEC talk, which I've embedded above in this post, Ji showed images of Cortana running on screens on a refrigerator and a thermostat.

Microsoft officials continue to refer to Cortana as a "truly personal digital assistant" that can provide "proactive and personal assistance." At WinHEC, Ji said that there are currently more than 1,000 Cortana "skills" available to developers.

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