Last week, we took the stage in San Francisco and proudly announced Cortana as part of the Windows Phone 8.1 update. You’ve likely already read about how Cortana will use the power of Bing to deliver personalized, natural experiences to users. What you may nothave read is how Cortana empowers application developers to deliver robust, natural experiences of their own.
Windows Phone 8.0, our previous release, brought with it the Voice Commands feature. Voice Commands on 8.0 enable an application developer to author simple phrases and lists of words that together allow a user to quickly navigate into a specific experience within an application; for example, “Hulu, show me my queue.”
The biggest limitation of Voice Commands was that the full text of the commands themselves needed to be known ahead of time—this made them difficult to use for searching, social networking, or anything else with a large vocabulary. We knew our developers needed more and we wanted more ourselves—just check out the kinds of things that our team thought up when asked what they’d like to do:
To make these kinds of interactions possible, we’ve introduced new functionality in Windows Phone 8.1 that allows Voice Commands to leverage the functionality of both Cortana and Bing to deliver customized, large-vocabulary transcriptions of user utterances withoutneeding to specify the details of that vocabulary ahead of time. Whereas before a developer could make a command like “Hulu, show me my queue,” now that same developer can make a command like “Hulu, watch the latest episode of Family Guy”—even if “Family Guy” wasn’t known to the application before the query!
While we’ve already worked hard with several well-known apps like Hulu, Facebook, and Twitter to ensure that our users benefit from this feature at release, we also want to provide a “how-to” guide that shows all our developers that they, too, can integrate into the Cortana experience on Windows Phone 8.1. Enter MSDN Voice Search, a freely-available Store application that demonstrates end-to-end use of Cortana-enabled Voice Commands.
Although MSDN Voice Search is a fully-functional application with real-world usefulness for quick, burning queries like “MSDN, search for documentation on Azure,” it’s more importantly a living example of a fairly simple application using Cortana-powered Voice Commands, in-application Speech Recognition, and in-application Speech Synthesis together to deliver a complete and natural user experience. And the source code is published online to use as a model.
We’re pretty excited about the kinds of experiences we think we’ve made possible on Windows Phone 8.1—and even more excited to see the ingenuity of our developers lead to experiences we haven’t thought of. Now that Windows Phone applications have Cortana at their fingertips, what do you want your applications to do?
You can read more about Voice Commands and the other Windows Phone Speech here.
-Travis Wilson, Software Engineer, Bing