November 4th, 2019 by Michael Rink
Microsoft Announces Masculine Cortana
Today, Microsoft announced that they would be adding a masculine voice to their Cortana digital aid for the first time ever. Microsoft also announced several other enhancements for Microsoft 365, but let's be honest, what everyone is excited about is that they'll finally have the option of changing the voice of Microsoft's answer to Alexa and Siri to sound more masculine.
While Microsoft reversing their long-standing position of only providing a feminine voice for Cortana, is certainly attention-grabbing, Microsoft also announced several other new features. Some of these new features are rather nice, so let's take a look at them.
First up, the iOS version of Outlook is getting a new feature Microsoft is calling Play My Emails. The android version is scheduled for release in spring 2020. Play My Emails will allow Cortana to read out new emails. Users will be able to give voice commands to sort the emails or flag them for later follow up. Microsoft is also taking a stab at making the email playbacks sound more natural. Microsoft has trained up a neural network that will attempt to match the patterns of stress and intonation in normal speech while reading your emails to try to make Cortana sound more human.
In a similar vein, Microsoft announced that they are adding additional calendar and scheduling capabilities to Cortana. When the new features start rolling out (in the United States of America initially) in a few weeks, Cortana will have options to generate briefing emails summarizing your time commitments for the day. Microsoft claims that the Cortana-generated email briefing will also attach the documents you need for any meetings you have scheduled during the day. Microsoft is also promising that Cortana will be able to schedule meetings for you. I can't decide if this new feature sounds creepier than cool or not. According to Microsoft, once you task Cortana with scheduling an appointment, it will automatically do so without further input from you. If Cortana doesn't know when the other meeting participants will be available, it will email them and negotiate a time that works for everyone without your further involvement.
Finally, Microsoft is also adding new analytics tools to try to identify emails or action items that slipped through the cracks and bring them to the users' attention. Outlook will also be tracking a variety of metrics Microsoft has identified as being associated with good management in their opinion and will provide suggestions to users to help them be better managers in theory.
- iOS Play My Emails – immediately (USA only)
- android Play My Emails - Early 2020
- Calendar Scheduling – in a few weeks (USA only)
- New Email Analytics – Early 2020