It's clear that people use many digital assistants in their lives.
They might own a PC with Cortana, an iPhone with Siri, an Fire tablet with Alexa, and a Google Home with Assistant. These assistants live on their own devices and respective ecosystems. But with the new Cortana-Alexa integration that's just launched in preview, you'll be able to, for the first time, access two different assistants on the same device. Here's how it works and what it means for you, the end user.
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What is the Cortana-Alexa integration?
Microsoft said it wanted to make it possible for its customers to get the most out of their various digital assistants and not be bound to some single walled garden, and it wanted developers to have access to the maximum number of users. So, it worked with Amazon to bring Alexa and Cortana together to benefit every user and developer. It essentially wanted the two assistants to work together to help us.
What are the benefits of this integration?
Here's an example use-case of the Cortana-Alexa integration:
Imagine, for instance, you have an Echo in the kitchen that you use for timers, reminders, and music. But you also have a PC in the living room with Cortana, and Cortana manages your schedules and your emails. With the the Cortana-Alexa integration, you could ask Alexa in the kitchen to add milk to your shopping list, and then you can instantly tell it to open Cortana so that you can find out how your day is looking.
Cortana will list any events or meetings you have in your calendar. When it's done, you can ask Cortana to send an email to your coworker for you. You could then move to the living room, ask Cortana on your Windows 10 PC how long it will take you to get to a nearby pizza restaurant for lunch, and then you can tell Cortana to open Alexa on your PC. At that point, you can ask Alexa for an Uber ride to that restaurant.
Before you leave, you can ask Alexa on the PC to turn off the lights. Admittedly, this does sound convoluted, but it's neat to see both assistants living on the same device, and that you can toggle between them seamlessly to access different features and skills.
How does the integration work?
To enable Cortana as a skill on Echo devices, say “Alexa, open Cortana” and follow the steps to sign into or set up your Microsoft account. To enable Alexa as a skill on a PC, say “Hey Cortana, open Alexa” or click the microphone button and say “open Alexa.” Then, follow the steps to sign into or set up your Amazon account. The integration is basic at launch and requires you to name each digital assistant.
- “Alexa, open Cortana” launches Cortana on an Echo device.
- “Hey Cortana, open Alexa,” launches Alexa on PCs and Cortana devices
Cortana and Alexa are essentially enabled as a skill on each platform, allowing you to summon Cortana from an Echo device and get access to various Windows and Office features. Similarly, Windows 10 users can access Alexa skills through Cortana. Features like streaming music or alarms are not available yet, but Microsoft said more skills and features will be added over time.
Amazon also plans to bring Alexa to Windows 10 PCs with a dedicated app that listens for the Alexa wake word.
When will the integration be available?
A new preview is now available to both Cortana and Alexa users in the US. You can learn more about it from here.