Microsoft has announced a new Cortana-powered version of the service that is capable of answering questions and providing contextual information based on your location.
Cortana is already available for iOS, Android, and Windows 10 Mobile.
Cortana now works with Microsoft Edge, Windows Phone, and other apps that provide a “complete view” of your surroundings and your surroundings in general.
Cortana can also recognize when you’re looking at something and ask you for directions.
It’s still not a full-fledged voice assistant, but it’s a lot closer than what we’ve seen so far.
Cortana’s first public appearance was during a speech at the Build conference in January, but Microsoft said it has since expanded Cortana’s functionality.
In its first public announcement of Cortana for the Windows 10 desktop, Microsoft announced a few features that will let you ask Cortana questions and get the context for what she says.
Cortana will also provide contextual information, like weather conditions or traffic, based on what you see and how close you are to something.
Cortana uses a “search bar” on the left side of the screen, where you can see the most recent, relevant answers.
You can also “learn” more about a specific person by saying “Hey Cortana,” and then asking the app “Who is this person?”
You can ask questions in the context of your location, or the “current location” in your phone.
The feature is similar to Google Now, which uses Google Maps to ask you things like directions or the weather.
You’ll still have to tap on the question or answer to get a full explanation.
Microsoft has made some improvements to the search bar in the new Cortana for Desktop, too.
“In the Cortana for desktop, you’ll see a new bar with more information about a person, such as their name, gender, and even the type of device they use,” Microsoft said.
“You can also type in a specific phrase or phrase search, and Cortana will highlight that search in a new pop-up.”
It’s not yet clear how much Cortana is being used right now, but there are some apps that will support it.
You could also use the search feature to get directions, like in the example above.
Microsoft also said that Cortana will now show up when you search for a restaurant in a restaurant list, or search for locations by location.
You won’t be able to ask Cortana about the location of your car, but you will be able ask her about nearby landmarks.
You will be prompted to install a new profile, and Microsoft said you’ll be able tell Cortana that the profile has been updated by searching “who is this car’s owner?”
You’ll be asked to install the app again to allow Cortana to know your location and how long you’ve been in that area.
Cortana also will now let you search by voice, but not by typing.
“As a reminder, Cortana is a new voice assistant that will allow you to ask questions to Cortana and get a personalized response based on the context you provide, such the type and location of the items in your home,” Microsoft wrote.
Cortana won’t always answer a question right away, but will offer contextual information as you ask.
Microsoft will still allow you “to ask Cortana ‘What’s the weather like?’ and she’ll provide a personal answer based on that question,” Microsoft added.
Cortana for Xbox is an Xbox app that lets you use Cortana to help you search the web, watch TV, play games, and do other basic things.
Microsoft said that it is working on a way to allow you get access to all of these things with a new feature in Cortana for PC.
Microsoft hasn’t said when that feature will launch, but the Windows Insider program is already rolling out updates for the Xbox app to allow developers to add Cortana to their games, games consoles, and apps.
Cortana isn’t the only app Microsoft is working with developers on integrating Cortana into.
Earlier this year, Microsoft added a feature called “Get Cortana on your phone” to the Windows Store that lets users sign in to an Xbox, PC, or mobile app to have Cortana ask them questions and offer suggestions.
Microsoft says that “Get to know Cortana” can help you “navigate through the apps you use and get insights into what you’re using.”
Cortana can be used to help manage apps, including those that can’t support voice commands, like Microsoft’s OneDrive.
Microsoft is also working with Google to allow people to request Cortana to work in a “personal assistant mode,” a feature that allows Cortana to ask people questions about things like weather and their calendar, while also providing context.
Cortana on PC will let people “see all the relevant answers to your questions and ask for more,” Microsoft told The Verge.
“When you ask ‘How do I get to work today?’
Cortana will show you the current time, current location, and a summary of all the locations where you are,” Microsoft continued.
Cortana was also announced at Microsoft’s Build conference on January 17.