Microsoft wants to make broken promises and the workplace conflicts they cause a thing of the past.
A year ago, the Redmond, Wash. software giant previewed a new feature for Cortana that would help Windows 10 users honor the commitments they make via email. This week, the general public can finally take the technology, dubbed Cortana Suggested Reminders, for a spin.
The feature requires that users add their Outlook.com or Office 365 work or school email accounts to the Cortana notebook under Connected Services. Once enabled, Microsoft's virtual assistant will keep tabs on those accounts in the background, helping users keep their word when they promise to do something.
"Using machine learning technology developed in partnership with Microsoft Research, Cortana automatically recognizes when you make a commitment in email messages and will proactively suggest a reminder to you to follow through at just the right time," explained Marcus Ash, partner group program manager at Microsoft Cortana. After encountering this type of email, Cortana will automatically save the pertinent details in a new suggested reminder.
"If you've specified a deadline in the email, Cortana will ping you before it's due and save it in the action center," added Ash. Other suggested reminders will be in the Cortana home. No need to copy her on the email or change how you do things today, she will adapt to you."
Cortana Suggested Reminders is currently being rolled out to Windows 10 users. Microsoft is working on bringing the feature to Cortana apps for iOS and Android sometime in the next few weeks. The company is also looking to expand the list of supported services.
Soon, users may not need a PC or smartphone to get reminders from Cortana.
Joining the Amazon Echo and Google Home fray, Microsoft announced late last year that it had teamed with audio equipment maker Harman Kardon on a Cortana-powered standalone speaker. A short teaser video published by Microsoft on Dec. 13 shows the Echo-like speaker light up when the user says "Hey Cortana," before fulfilling requests to play a song and set a reminder. The device is set to arrive sometime this year.
The competition isn't sitting still while Cortana explores new horizons. Last month, Google announced that Honeywell and Belkin had joined the Google Assistant ecosystem, enabling Google Home owners to add some smarts to their living spaces.
"With Honeywell and your Google Assistant on Google Home, you can conveniently manage your home's temperature without leaving the comfort of your covers—just say 'Ok Google, turn the temperature up downstairs,'" wrote Gummi Hafsteinsson, product lead for Google Assistant, in a Jan 24 blog post. "And when you're headed out the door, Belkin Wemo and your Google Assistant can help you remember if you turned off the lights—just say 'Ok Google, did I leave the bedroom lights on?'"