Build 2014: Cortana brings voice assistance to Windows Phone 8.1

Build 2014: Cortana brings voice assistance to Windows Phone 8.1

Voice control has arrived on Windows Phone. At Build today, Joe Belfiore official unveiled Cortana -- the personal digital assistant for Windows Phone. This is something that has been talked about for a very long time now,

Belfiore fired up Cortana on a Nokia Lumia 1520 to show off the new capabilities. There's a live tile for Cortana which displays information that "she" has already been taught about. But the halo-like assistant is on-hand at all times whenever a search is conducted. As Belfiore points out, Cortana not only has access to the internet, but also learn about you, the things you like and the way you work. As has been the case with many of the changes to Windows Phone 8.1, it's all about making things more personal.

There are some very nice touches with Cortana. For instance, Quiet Hours is a feature that we have seen implemented on other operating systems, but here in Windows Phone 8.1 there is a finer degree of control than we're used to. You might specify that you do not want to be disturbed between 8pm and 8am, but it's possible to set up exceptions so that contact from certain contacts is allows.

There will be support for third-party apps so there is virtually unlimited potential for what the tool will be capable of in the future. It is something of a cliché to say it, but the only limit is your (or developers') imagination. For now, we've been shown how natural language can be used to added a TV show to the queue in Hulu as well as checking the newsfeed of a friend on Facebook.

But out of the box, Cortana is simple, powerful and intuitive. Want to set an alarm? Just vocalize it. Need to check what's happening tomorrow? Just ask! It really is that simple.

What is interesting to note is that Cortana is being launched as a beta tool, so Windows Phone 8.1 users are being turned into beta testers -- at least for the time being. For now, as Belfiore found on stage, there are going to be a few quirks and bugs, but these should be ironed out as time goes on.

Are you liking the sound of it? It Cortana a helpful addition to Windows Phone?