October 19, 2017
Alexa Meet Cortana - Two Rivals Join Forces
Recently Microsoft and Amazon, two of the fiercest rivals in cloud computing, announced a remarkable partnership: Alexa, Amazon’s voice assistant, and Cortana, Microsoft’s voice assistant. The two would work together and allow everyone with an Echo in their home to open Cortana. And with more than 400 Million Windows 10 devices, Cortana could open Alexa. Think about that for a moment. With these two tech titans aligning strategies, Microsoft and Amazon are saying voice interaction is of the utmost importance.
Why are these two rivals pairing together? In a recent interview, Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos said, “the strengths of their artificial intelligence power digital aids complement each other to give the customers a
richer experience”. With both AI aids bringing specific strengths, customers will now be able to have seamless integration to drive their life, both work and personal, from anywhere. Imagine being able to schedule an outlook meeting from your Alexa echo in the kitchen. Or, tapping into your Alexa home network at work from your Windows 10 device to turn off the lights. Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella explained, “the personality and expertise of each one will be such that if they interoperated, the user will get more out of it […] That resonated for me and for him [Bezos], and then that’s what led to the teams working.”
As of October 2017, the integration is not complete. But if you say, “Alexa open Cortana,” Alexa replies “Currently you can speak with Cortana on any Windows 10 device later this year you’ll be able to talk directly with her through me by saying Alexa open Cortana.”
It’s not often that we see this type of partnership. Already working with AI and SmartBot technology to help clients reach stretch goals, Attunix is excited to see what opportunities this collaboration will bring. On a personal level, I am busy exploring the impact the “digital aids,” or “AIs” can have on the day-to-day life.
Dabbling in Alexa Skills
This summer Amazon has been making a focused effort on attracting developers to publish skills for Alexa with offers of free Echo Dots. One of many items on my personal list of side projects was develop a skill for Alexa that could help my daughter and other kids learning to count. Initially I faced several roadblocks but in September I was finally able to publish my Count Me Skill. It will count up to 20 to help develop counting skills.
On the road to publishing my counting skill I started with Hiking Essentials, a skill that lists the 10 essentials you should always take when you go and explore nature. I also created C# Defaults, which lists the default for any given data type in C# when a variable is initialized but not assigned or when returning default(T).
With publishing these skills and thinking about user interaction that doesn’t involve a screen, keyboard, or mouse I’ve realized the concept of user interaction has evolved. What value does a screen provide? What would X application look like if it were only voiced based? Voice interaction offers a natural communication style, as we interact face to face or over the phone.
If you would like to learn more about bringing voice interaction into your new or existing applications please contact Attunix at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Andrew Cook is a Software Development Consultant specializing in helping organizations migrate and develop applications that leverage the power of Microsoft Azure. To learn more about Andrew follow him on twitter @codingwcookie or browse his personal blog https://codingwithcookie.com