Microsoft Launches Cortana Skill Kit In Public Preview

What Happened
After over a month of delay, Microsoft finally launched the Cortana Skills Kit in a public preview earlier today at its 2017 Build developer conference. This SDK will allow third-party developers to build new skills or convert conversational experiences from the ones made for Amazon’s Alexa or Microsoft’s new Bot Framework. In addition, the company also announced that it is working with HP and Intel to create Cortana-powered smart speakers and other smart home devices.

At its Build event, Microsoft also shared some usage statistics on its products. According to the company, its latest operating system Windows 10, which ships with Cortana embedded, is now active on 500 million devices worldwide, while Cortana currently enjoys 141 million monthly active users. There are currently 130,000 developers using its Bot Framework, a sizeable increase from the 46,000 developers it had in September.

What Brands Need To Do
Being a bit late to the party, Microsoft has a long way to go to catch up with Amazon and Google, but this SDK launch is undoubtedly a step in the right direction. (Alexa, currently leading the race of digital voice assistants, now has over 10,000 third-party skills available.) As voice-based personal assistants like Alexa and Cortana continue to take over as the default interactive layer of smart home devices, brands wishing to tap into the marketing potential of the smart home devices will have to keep a close eye on this development.

How We Can Help
The Lab has extensive experience in building Alexa Skills and chatbots to reach consumers on conversational interfaces. So much so that we’ve built a dedicated conversational practice called Dialogue. The “Miller Time” Alexa Skill we developed with Drizly for Miller Lite is a good example of how Dialogue can help brands build a conversational customer experience, supercharged by our stack of technology partners with best-in-class solutions and an insights engine that extracts business intelligence from conversational data.

If you’d like to learn more about how to effectively reach consumers on conversational interfaces, or to leverage the Lab’s expertise to take on related client opportunities within the IPG Mediabrands, please contact our Client Services Director Samantha Barrett (samantha@ipglab.com) to schedule a visit to the Lab.

 


Source: Engadget & Axios

Microsoft Aims To Turn Windows 10 PCs Into Echo Competitors

What Happened
Microsoft is planning to turn personal computers running Windows 10 into always-on smart speakers with a new HomeHub feature, as the company aims to find a better way to compete with devices like Amazon Echo. First previewed in December, HomeHub is designed to turn a PC into an always-listening device that users can activate Cortana via voice from the lockscreen to provide useful information. Microsoft is also planning to support smart home devices like Philips’ Hue lights, to enable Windows 10 PCs to act as a hub to control and manage smart home hardware.

What Brands Need To Do
Microsoft has been playing catch-up in the smart home device space, and this move should encourage some Windows users to use Cortana more frequently and become familiarized with the voice-activated smart home experience. The company has also worked with Harman Kardon to create an Invoke smart speaker that evokes Amazon Echo’s sleek cylinder design. As voice-based personal assistants like Alexa and Cortana continue to take over as the default interactive layer of smart home devices, brands wishing to tap into the marketing potential of the smart home devices will have to keep a close eye on this development.

 


Source: The Verge

 

Microsoft Working With Third-Party Manufacturers To Make Echo Competitors

What Happened
Microsoft is looking to take on the likes of Amazon Echo and Google Home as the company announced on Tuesday it is releasing a Cortana Devices SDK to allow third-party OEMs to integrate its digital assistant service into hardware devices such as speakers, smart home appliances, and even connected cars. Smart devices integrated with Cortana will have “real-time, two-way audio communications with Skype, e-mail, calendar, and list integration,” according to Microsoft. The first of such conversational devices will be a Cortana-enabled speaker made by Harman Kardon set to launch in early 2017.

What Brands Should Do
This announcement indicates Microsoft’s third party-sourcing strategy in competing with Amazon and Google in the conversational service space, which should help push Cortana into more products. As the tech giants continue to push their respective conversational services into the consumer market, more and more mainstream consumers will soon become reachable via these voice-based devices. Brands that wish to stay ahead of the digital curve should start exploring opportunities in building advanced applications for these emerging platforms with highly engaging conversational user experiences.

How We Can Help
The Lab has extensive experience in building Alexa Skills and chatbots to reach consumers on conversational interfaces. So much so that we’ve built a dedicated conversational practice called Dialogue. The NiroBot we built in collaboration with Ansible for Kia is a good example of how Dialogue can help brands build a conversational customer experience supercharged by our stack of technology partners with best-in-class solutions and an insights engine that extracts business intelligence from conversational data.

If you’d like to learn more about how to effectively reach consumers on messaging apps and other conversational interfaces, or to leverage the Lab’s expertise to take on related client and learning opportunities within the IPG Mediabrands, please contact our Client Services Director Samantha Holland (samantha@ipglab.com) to schedule a visit to the Lab.

 


Source: Ars Technica

Will Speech-Driven Digital Assistants Be The New Universal UI?

Read original story on: ArsTechnica

Microsoft is looking to extend its voice-command service with an ambitious Project Oxford, which includes a set of APIs and SDKs to allow developers to integrate speech command and many other machine learning capabilities behind Cortana, Microsoft’s own Siri, into third-party platforms and applications ranging from smart TVs to home automation systems.

Following on its Build conference, which we recapped here, Microsoft announced its plan to push for deeper app integration into Cortana in Windows 10, especially for simple task completions. If implemented, this would mean that tasks such as calling an Uber could be accomplished via simple speech command without opening the app.

One possible long-term result of these advances would be that developers could incorporate speech-driven digital assistants like Cortana into of all sorts of devices, making it the new universal user interface. Coupled with the rise of the Internet of Things, as well as new developments in in-app deep linking, it could significantly change how consumers interact with digital devices, which poses new challenges and opportunities for brands.

 

Update 5/26: Microsoft’s officially bringing Cortana to iPhone and Android with its new Phone Companion app for Windows 10, which promises to help users sync their mobile phones with their PCs.

 

Siri, Cortana, and Google Now: Who Is The Smartest?

Source: ReadWrite

Google Now, Siri, and Cortana were each given 3,000 voice queries in a new study to compare the capability of these three major voice-activated AIs. Google Now emerged as the clear champion with 88% of the questions handled correctly. Siri took the second-place with a 53% success rate, while Microsoft’s newly introduced Cortana finished with a mere 40%. Looks like both Siri and Cortana still have a lot of room for improvement.

Foursquare Integrated Into Cortana, Windows’ Siri

Following its pivoting re-launch last week, location service Foursquare is once again trying something new, as it has reported been integrated into Cortana, the Windows Phone’s answer to Siri. Its addition now enables window phones carrying Cortana to make customizable, local recommendations based on your location, and presumably, your account history. Such integration fits with the new “local discovery” position that Foursquare took up since its recent update, while also puts it in direct contest with Yelp, which Siri enlists for the same function.