Microsoft has extended the availability of its Cortana personal assistant tool into four more European markets.
Now available in ‘alpha’ mode in France, Italy, Germany and Spain, Cortana has generated significant interest since its initial launch as part of Windows Phone 8.1 in the US earlier this year.
Cortana was made available to users in China and the UK over the summer following the release of the Windows Phone 8.1 Update, and the company has been working since then to extend its availability into more countries and with more language options.
“Alpha means that Cortana is new to these countries, most of the features in the beta version are available but some are missing or coming soon,” explained Marcus Ash, partner group program manager at Microsoft, in a Windows blog announcing the launch. “For example, flight tracking is not available at this time for alpha. Transit data is currently limited to larger cities and will expand as we have more data.”
Reference data, for example the answer to specific questions such as how tall Mt. Everest is, is not available in alpha mode, but Ash said that the Cortana team is working to enable this functionality soon.
“We have worked hard to tailor Cortana’s personality in each language to make her more locally and culturally relevant,” added Ash. “Cortana will also show European football data, including Bundesliga, Serie A, Ligue 1, and La Liga.”
Initially in these countries, Cortana will be available through the Windows Phone Developer Preview Program, with the aim of helping improve the speech and language recognition models for each of the new languages. Ash said that plans were in place to make Cortana available as beta in France, Italy, Germany and Spain in the near future, but did not give an indication as to when this may be.
“By working with her (Cortana), you will help to improve her conversational understanding and also help us improve her intelligence – the breadth of answers she can provide and the categories she’s aware of – so she can truly help you throughout your day,” Ash added. “There’s no need to file explicit feedback: simply using Cortana will help make her better over time. It’s so exciting to see the passion the community has had for Cortana and your passion has been one of the driving forces for us to bring Cortana alpha to more countries.”
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