Microsoft is extending the capabilities of its artificial intelligence assistant, Cortana to new devices and developers. Microsoft announced a Skills Kit and a Cortana Devices SDK. The Skills Kit is to add capabilities to Cortana across the platforms that it is available on, including Windows, iOS and Android. The devices SDK will allow Cortana integration into a new generation of smart devices. Developers and Device Manufacturers can sign up to get access and updates as Microsoft moves the capabilities out of private preview.
The Cortana Skills Kit allows users to integrate capabilities with Cortana using chatbots created for the Microsoft Bot Framework. The web services offered by companies can be published as a skill on Cortana through the Skills Kit. There is also a facility to re-purpose existing code for Amazon’s Alexa. Early partners have already integrated skills into Cortana. These include Knowmail that uses Cortana to prioritise emails based on habits of individual users, Capital One that facilitates money management through a voice interface, Expedia that allows users to book hotels, and TalkLocal that can connect to local services based on user requests.
The voice based services can potentially be used by the premium smart speaker by Harman Kardon with Cortana Integration, that is expected to be available in 2017.
The Cortana Devices SDK will allow for third party Original Equipment Manufacturers and Original Device Manufacturers to integrate Cortana into their product offerings. The Devices SDK is platform and device independent, designed to make Cortana unbound, and work on any platform or device. Microsoft is already working with many industries across various hardware categories. One exciting tease from Microsoft is that it is working to get Cortana on at least one connected car. Cortana is included in the Core edition of the Windows IoT platform, which allows the assistant to be embedded in IoT devices.
The Cortana Skills Kit and the Cortana Devices SDK are in private preview as of now, and will be available more broadly in 2017.