When Microsoft's Windows 10 is released next week in seven countries, each market will receive a specialized version of Cortana, the system's digital personal assistant and Microsoft's answer to Siri. Earlier today, Cortana Group Program Manager Marcus Ash explained in a blog post the efforts his team exerted to make sure each country's iteration of Cortana is sensitive to local cultural nuances. The video below offers a demonstration:
Basically, Microsoft is aiming to make Cortana's personality about as far from one-size-fits-all as possible. The British version, for example, is self-deprecatingly humble (and probably talks a lot about the weather). The forthcoming Japanese Cortana endeavors to be more formal. The Canadian one likes hockey.
Each Cortana will come equipped with a specialized knowledge of local cultural nuances. Asking the Italian Cortana to tell you a joke will trigger a very different response than the German one, and not just because German people aren't very funny (they are!). What this tells us is Microsoft is really doubling down on personalization. As far as AI goes, Cortana isn't quite C-3PO, but the aim here is to create a digital assistant capable of learning more about its user than when he or she likes to take lunch on Fridays. The company is hoping users react positively, as the broad efforts to educate Cortana about multiple cultures probably weren't cheap.
I don't know about you, but if Cortana knows the proper way to respond to a question like, "Tell me about Updawg," then I'm sold.
Photo credit: Ian Gavan / Getty
Will Cortana's awareness of distinct cultural customs spark a robot Armageddon? Probably not. Regardless, Big Think expert Michael Vassar thinks we should be wary of the possible consequences of unchecked AI.