Alexa and Cortana lend their voices to a mighty new AI chorus

30 Aug 201724 Shares

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Amazon’s Echo voice assistant with Alexa. Image: Zapp2Photo/Shutterstock

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Amazon’s Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana join to form highly unexpected alliance. But what will the harmonies be like?

The market for voice-based AI assistants is heating up, with players ranging from Apple’s Siri, Google’s Assistant, Amazon’s Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana in the leading ranks.

The AI assistants help users to find news, get weather forecasts, access their favourite music, and order goods and services.

Each of the platforms have their various strengths and weaknesses, and form the unique selling points of various goods, such as the Apple iPhone and forthcoming HomePod, Amazon’s Echo and the latest Windows 10 machines.

‘There are going to be multiple successful intelligent agents, each with access to different sets of data and with different specialised skill areas’
– JEFF BEZOS

And now, in what could be an exciting new paradigm for the genre, tech rivals Amazon and Microsoft have forged a partnership to allow consumers to summon Cortana using Alexa, and vice versa.

The fruits of the partnership are expected to ripen later this year, according to The New York Times.

No more walled gardens for voice-based AI assistants?

Alexa and Cortana lend their voices to a mighty new AI chorus

Microsoft’s Cortana voice assistant. Image: Yougoigo/Shutterstock

Both Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos believe that because the AI-based assistants have their respective merits, keeping them from communicating with each other would hold back the evolution of artificial intelligence.

Amazon has been busy turning Alexa into an engine for e-commerce while Microsoft has, as expected, integrated Cortana into Windows and Outlook from a productivity point of view.

Users of a Windows PC could simply say, ‘Cortana, open Alexa’, or an Alexa user could say, ‘Alexa, open Cortana’, and ask ‘When is the next review with the boss?’

“Ensuring Cortana is available for our customers everywhere and across any device is a key priority for us,” said Nadella. “Bringing Cortana’s knowledge, Office 365 integration, commitments and reminders to Alexa is a great step toward that goal.”

Rather than have AI assistants with particular strengths performing as walled gardens, tech giants such as Apple and Google could soon be working together to enrich the quality and capability of voice queries.

“The world is big and so multifaceted,” said Bezos.

“There are going to be multiple successful intelligent agents, each with access to different sets of data and with different specialised skill areas.

“Together, their strengths will complement each other and provide customers with a richer and even more helpful experience.

“It’s great for Echo owners to get easy access to Cortana.”

Amazon’s Echo device with Alexa voice assistant. Image: Zapp2Photo/Shutterstock

Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com