Saturday, October 4, 2014

Some comments about Cortana and the Lumia 635 she rode in on

Cortana is the intelligent, virtual, digital personal assistant that resides within my Lumia 635 smartphone from Microsoft.  She is proving to be a steady companion, a helpful assistant, and a source of the latest news and weather, all done in response to the sound of my voice.  Yesterday, while texting for the first time on the Lumia 635, I discovered that by tapping the “microphone” icon at the bottom of the screen I could call up Cortana within the texting function to transcribe my spoken words and she would transcribe them directly into text and enter them into the text message box automatically, all with an accuracy approaching perfect.

Microsoft has hinted that it will include Cortana in its new Windows 10 operating system.  The company has already announced that it will be incorporating Cortana’s speech recognition function into Skype Translator at the front end and her speech synthesis ability on the other end, having applied the capability of Bing Translator between these spoken word events to translate the Cortana-derived texts from one language to the other.

The more language that Skype Translator processes, the better it gets at correctly translating spoken text in one language into spoken text in another.  It has also demonstrated “learning transfer,” according to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, a process by which learning a new language enables the Skype Translator program to function more efficiently in translating languages it already knows.  Skype Translator is always learning.

The camera on the Lumia 635 is a good one.  I’ve used it to take still photos and videos, which are easily uploaded to Facebook.  The phone is easy to use, has good sound quality, and features an easy-to-use keyboard with a “Skype” option that doesn’t seem to do anything yet.  The “Speaker,” “Mute,” and “Hold” buttons are arranged in a clean lay-out that makes using them a snap.  Contact names and their respective contact numbers and addresses are elegantly displayed on each person’s page.  Cortana will place calls for you to any of your contacts at the sound of your voice.

Cortana knows what “yesterday,” “today,” and “tomorrow” are on any given day.  She can be programmed to remind you of appointments, or to tell a particular caller something you’ve asked her to remind you about.  Her voice, recorded by Jen Taylor, who is also the voice of Cortana in the Halo series, is pleasant and easy to listen to. 

The phone doesn’t have a front-facing camera, so videoconferencing seems out of the question for now, but if you want a reliable digital companion and helper, a great phone in an attractive package, and a very functional system for recording and uploading digital images and video, then the Lumia 635 could be the phone for you.

Join the Cortana Users Group on Facebook at:

Join the Skype Translator Users Group on Facebook at:



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