Microsoft and Amazon’s First-of-its-Kind Collaboration

One may talk to Cortana everyday and everywhere, whether it is to get information about the day, to set reminders, or to answer questions. However, many people don’t just use one digital assistant. They may also speak to Alexa on a daily basis to listen to audio books or to add things to an Amazon.com shopping list. Due to this fact that many people use and interact with all kinds of products, Microsoft and Amazon have announced a first-of-its-kind collaboration between Cortana and Alexa, offering more choice, value, and access to both personal assistants.

Available later this year, this collaboration will allow you to access Alexa via Cortana on Windows 10 PCs, followed by Android and iOS in the future. Conversely, you’ll be able to access Cortana on Alexa-enabled devices like the Amazon Echo, Echo Dot and Echo Show. By bringing Cortana to Alexa and Alexa to Cortana, more value and choice has been added for consumers and developers alike.

Alexa as a Guest on Cortana

Cortana users will be able to have Alexa shop on Amazon.com and manage their Amazon orders and access many of Alexa’s third-party skills by asking Cortana to open Alexa.

For example, say you are at work and you receive a text from your partner saying, “We’re running low on diapers.” In the future, on your Windows 10 PC, iPhone or Android phone, you could simply say, “Hey Cortana, open Alexa,” and ask Alexa to order diapers using your preferred payment method for your Amazon account.

Cortana as a Guest on Alexa

Alexa users will have access to Cortana’s world knowledge and helpful productivity features such as calendar management, day at a glance, and location-based reminders by simply asking Alexa to open Cortana. For example, what if you’re making breakfast in the morning and need to know if you have enough time to drop off the dry-cleaning before work? On your Alexa device, you can say, “Alexa, open Cortana,” and ask when your first meeting is. If you won’t have enough time, simply ask Alexa to open Cortana again and set a reminder for the end of your workday to drop off the clothes.

Microsoft brings Cortana to the Android lock screen

microsoft brings cortana - managed solution

Microsoft brings Cortana to the Android lock screen

By Sarah Perez as written on techcrunch.com
Following a series of beta trials, Microsoft officially announced this morning that it’s bringing its virtual assistant Cortana to the lock screen of Android devices. Initially, Microsoft had tested putting an overview of your day on the lock screen – offering information like the day’s weather, commute times, flight or meeting information, and more – where it could be seen at a glance.
The feature was designed to compete with Google’s own Assistant technology, which also offers similar information.
During the beta, users could head into the Cortana’s Setting menu to switch on lock screen integration. This would place a floating Cortana circle logo with “Swipe to Open” on the screen. If you swiped it, you’d be shown your personalized feed, schedule and the other information Cortana offered.
The Cortana lock screen integration was rolled out earlier this month, Microsoft confirms, but it’s now widely available.
Today, you’re also able to interact with Cortana above the lock, the company says. That means you can ask questions to their virtual assistant, as you could with Siri or Google Assistant, for example, as well as perform various tasks like setting reminders.
This functionality could further challenge Google on its own platform. As Google’s only entry in the PC space is Chrome OS, it may be more useful for Windows users to add Cortana to their phones, given its interoperability across desktop, laptop, and mobile – including iOS and Android, not just Windows 10.
Microsoft says it has also improved the Cortana home on Android, making the information easier to read, along with other improvements like the ability to quickly add reminders and new calendar items, plus easier access to viewing, editing and adding items to lists.
Cortana in December rolled out an updated design on iOS and Android, Microsoft reminded users in today’s announcement. This upgrade had been focused on making it easier to get things done by putting the most important tasks more towards the center of the experience. The default experience is very purple, instead of the blue-and-black of the earlier Cortana look and feel. However, Microsoft added more color options in the weeks after the upgrade, including blue, green, and black.
In addition to its U.S. and U.K. availability, Cortana for iOS and Android is also launching in Australia today.

Windows 10 Tip: Use Cortana above your lock screen

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Windows 10 Tip: Use Cortana above your lock screen

By Elana Pidgeon as written on blogs.windows.com
Today, we’re going to show you how your personal digital assistant, Cortana*, can help you with all kinds of tasks across your device – even above your lock screen, thanks to the Windows 10 Anniversary Update.
Cortana allows you to perform tasks including set timers, track flights or even check the traffic, just using your voice. And now, with the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, you can talk to Cortana on your PC’s lock screen.

Here’s how to use Cortana above your lock screen:

Start by saying “Hey Cortana,” and ask her what the weather will be like this week, to remind you to do something or to play your favorite songs – without unlocking your device!
Start by saying “Hey Cortana,” and ask her what the weather will be like this week, to remind you to do something or to play your favorite songs – without unlocking your computer!
Check out Cortana’s Tips and Tricks menu in your taskbar to see what tasks Cortana can help you with, and have a great week!

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New Video Series This Week on Windows Highlights Windows 10 Anniversary Update

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New Video Series This Week on Windows Highlights Windows 10 Anniversary Update

As written on blogs.windows.com
The Windows 10 Anniversary Update begins rolling out today for customers around the world. The Anniversary Update is full of features and innovations that will bring new experiences with Windows Ink*, Cortana**, gaming and more. To give you an overview of new features that are rolling out in the update, check out the video below. It’s a part of a new weekly series we are piloting called This Week on Windows, where we’ll bring you the latest in Windows news, apps, and tips from experts here at Microsoft.

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Feature highlights in the Windows 10 Anniversary Update

Windows Ink brings the power of Windows to the tip of your pen

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Available for the first time in the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, Windows Ink lets you quickly and easily take notes, sketch on a screenshot or draw out an idea. Smart sticky notes can help you remember common tasks like reminding you of flight times or offering you directions using Maps. You can learn more about Windows Ink in this blog post here.

Improvements to security with Windows Defender and Windows Hello for apps and websites

The Anniversary Update brings new improvements to Windows Defender, our free anti-malware service that includes an option to automatically schedule periodic quick scans of your PC to help make sure your PC is safe and update to date. New Windows Hello* features make it easy for you to use the same easy, yet strong, security of Windows Hello with Windows apps and Microsoft Edge. To learn more about the security improvements coming in the Windows 10 Anniversary Update visit this blog post.

Increased power efficiency with Microsoft Edge and the arrival of extensions

The Anniversary Update includes even more power saving improvements to Microsoft Edge to give you the most out of your PCs battery life. Also available with the Anniversary Update Microsoft Edge Extensions are coming to the Windows Store, such as Pinterest Pin It Button, Amazon Assistant, AdBlock, Adblock Plus and LastPass. These extensions will help you personalize your browsing experience even further.

Cortana helps you be more productive

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With the Anniversary Update Cortana will be available above your lock screen so you can do things like ask questions, play music from your PC or set a reminder without unlocking your device. Cortana can save and recall key information across your devices, like your frequent flier number or where you parked at the airport. You can also add photos to make your reminders visual, like a photo of a bottle of wine you enjoyed at a restaurant. To learn more about Cortana in the Anniversary Update visit this blog post.

Gamers stay connected and enjoy more games

With the Anniversary Update, Cortana is now available on Xbox One in the U.S. and U.K. With Cortana, gamers can expect more from voice commands on Xbox. In addition to more commands and greater accuracy with natural language and text dictation, Cortana provides the ability to use a headset or Kinect. You’ll be able to use Cortana to find great new games, see what your friends are up to, start a party, accomplish common tasks, turn on your Xbox One if you’re using Kinect, and more. We’ll continue to build more Cortana features over time as part of our vision to have Cortana be your personal digital assistant for gaming. Gamers can also enjoy the Anniversary Update on the new Xbox One S that is available starting today. To learn more about what the Windows 10 Anniversary Update means for Xbox visit Xbox Wire.

Windows Store is a one-stop shop for play and work

With the Anniversary Update, we’re bringing together the best of Windows and Xbox. You can access your favorite apps, games, movies, music and more in the Windows Store including games only for Windows 10 and Xbox. The new store simplifies the shopping experience and will feature a new look, higher quality content, subscription offerings, bundles and pre-orders. With Xbox Play Anywhere, shoppers can pre-order their favorite games before launch, then play on either their Windows 10 PC or Xbox One the day of availability. This gives gamers more options of where to play their favorite games.

New innovations for the modern classroom

Customers can enjoy a range of new education features in the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, including faster, simpler set up with all new tools to help educators get up and running quickly and the “Take a Test” app that creates a browser-based, locked down environment for more secure online assessments. To learn more about what education features customers can enjoy in the Anniversary Update, visit this blog post.

Try the new Skype Preview with the Windows 10 Anniversary Update

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Skype Preview for Windows 10 PCs has been redesigned for Windows 10 and will come installed automatically with the Anniversary Update. You’ll be able to use all your favorite Skype features: talk over 1:1 and group video calls, say hello with 1:1 and group chats, call mobiles and landlines at low rates, share photos, share files, use emoticons, and add Mojis. To get started, once you have the Windows 10 Anniversary Update on your PC, open the Start menu and you’ll see “Skype Preview” in your list of apps. Click to launch or pin it to your taskbar or start for even faster access. To learn more about the great new features you can enjoy with Skype Preview in the Anniversary Update head over to the Skype Blog.
Finally, the Windows 10 Anniversary Update is our most reliable update yet, and since the November update last year we’ve made significant improvements to help your PC work better and last longer. For example, through our Windows Insider Program, we are seeing an average 20% improved boot speed. And your battery will last even longer as we’ve made more than 150 improvements in battery life functionality.
The Windows 10 Anniversary Update begins rolling out today, if you don’t want to wait for the update to roll out to you automatically and would like to manually get the update, check out this blog post.

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Hey Cortana, show me what’s coming to Windows 10

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Hey Cortana, show me what’s coming to Windows 10

This year’s Windows 10 Anniversary Update will have great new innovative features including:
The pen just got even mightier.
Turn thoughts into action with Windows Ink – using the pen, your fingertip, or both at once.2 Pair it with Office apps to effortlessly edit documents. With Windows Ink, you’ll be able to access features like Sticky Notes with a simple click of the pen.3 When you start drawing a figure like a chart or graph, it’ll turn into the real thing right before your eyes. And because Windows Ink stays active when your device is locked, you’ll be able to jot down notes even when you don’t have time to enter a password.
Cortana’s got you covered.
No time to enter your password but need some quick help? No problem — just ask. Cortana4 will now be at your service, even before you login. Whether you want to make a note, play music or set a reminder, Cortana will have you covered.
The secret password is: you.
With Windows Hello, unlocking your PC and devices is as quick as looking or touching.5 But the new Windows Hello will also let you unlock your PC simply by tapping your Windows Hello enabled phone.6 Beyond the hardware, Windows Hello will also give you instant access to paired apps and protected websites on Microsoft Edge – all while maintaining enterprise-level security. Windows Hello lets you say goodbye to cumbersome passwords.
Got game? We'll deliver.
Windows 10 will deliver incredible DirectX 12 games and Xbox Live features that will transform what you expect from PC gaming. Now you can play and connect with gamers across Xbox One and Windows 10 devices. From the best casual games to the next generation of PC releases, you’ll have more ways to play new games optimized for Windows.7

And that’s not all: Microsoft Studios is bringing a full portfolio of new games to Windows 10, including the forthcoming Forza Motorsport 6: Apex, which will be free for Windows 10 users.

With Windows 10, you’re automatically up to date. Find out what it can do for you today.

 

Preventing flood disasters with Cortana Intelligence Suite

Preventing flood disasters with Cortana Intelligence Suite

By Kristin Tolle as written on blogs.msdn.microsoft.com

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On October 31, 2013, the city of Austin, Texas, faced a destructive flood. At the time, I was visiting David Maidment, Chaired Professor of the Civil Engineering Center for Research in Water Resources on site at the University of Texas at Austin. The day before the flood, we had been discussing research and analytics around the long-standing drought conditions across western Texas. Overnight, a flash flood wreaked havoc on the Austin area, largely due to the failure of a stream gauge on Onion Creek, which prevented local emergency response officials from being properly informed about the situation.
On the morning of October 30, the stream gauge monitoring Onion Creek’s was operational and reporting that the stream level was rising to dangerous levels. First responders were monitoring the gauge so that they would be prepared for sending out support crews. However, around 5:00 a.m., the stream level reported by the gauge dropped to zero—which is not uncommon in the southern United States, where washes and stream levels can quickly drop to normal levels once the initial precipitation pattern passes. With the disaster appearing to have been averted, emergency responder turned their attention elsewhere. In actuality, the gauge had failed, the stream overran its banks, and more than 500 homes flooded and five people died.

Since the Onion Creek event, every year and often several times each year, Texas and nearby Oklahoma have experienced several floods, some of which have been more deadly than the 2013 event. In May 2015 a flood in this region claimed 48 lives, including two first responders, Deputy Jessica Hollis of the Austin Police Department and Captain Jason Farley of the Claremore, Oklahoma, Fire Department.
Researchers from the University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin) are collaborating with other researchers, federal agencies, commercial partners, and first responders to create the National Flood Interoperability Experiment (NFIE). The goals of the NFIE include standardizing data, demonstrating a scalable solution, and helping to close the gap between national flood forecasting and local emergency response. The objective is to create a system that interoperates between different publically available data sources to model floods, based on predictions.
Systems for each of the 13 water regions in the United States were developed, two of them at Microsoft Research by my visiting researcher, Marcello Somos (New England region), and intern Fernando Salas (Gulf region), both from the UT Austin. After Marcello and Fernando returned to Austin, they collaborated with other institutions to create a national flood map for the entire nation. This interoperated data product was used by NOAA to run a summer institute at the National Water Center in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, with 38 top hydrology and meteorology graduate students from around the world.
My colleague Prashant Dhingra and I presented Microsoft Azure and the recently announced big data advanced analytics and intelligence platform, Cortana Intelligence Suite, to the students at the annual National Water Center Summer Institute. Several enterprising attendees created interesting analytics projects. Tim Petty, a PhD candidate at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, wanted to address “the Onion Creek Problem,” and what we can do to estimate flood levels when stream gauges fail. And so project SHEM began.
Streamflow hydrology estimate using machine learning (SHEM) is a Cortana Intelligence Suite experiment that creates a predictive model that can act as a proxy streamflow data when a stream gauge fails. And due to the machine learning capabilities, it can even make estimates of stream levels where there is no actual stream gauge present.
SHEM differs from most existing models as it does not rely on distances between stream gauges and their location attributes, but is based solely on machine learning to process from historical patterns of discharge and interpret large volumes of complex hydrology data. This “training” prepares SHEM to predict streamflow information for a given location and time as it is impacted by multivariate attributes (for example, type of stream, type of reservoir, amount of precipitation, and surface and subsurface flow conditions).
Using Cortana Intelligence Suite (CIS), our joint research team was able to ingest, clean, refine, and format the historical US Geological Survey stream gauge data. We leveraged the Boosted Decision Tree Regression module which is one of many built-in machine learning algorithms. We also used built-in modules for data cleaning and transformation as well as modules for model scoring and evaluation. Wherever custom functionality is needed, you can add R or python modules directly to the workflow. And this is the advantage of Azure Machine Learning—that you can test multiple built-in or hand-coded algorithms and workflows in order to build an optimal solution rerunning and testing with reproducible results.
As with NFIE a year ago, SHEM is in the early stages of development and expanding it to more and more states is ongoing work. But the results bode well. All indications are that Cortana Intelligence Suite can use NFIE data and analysis products to effectively provide a reasonable estimate when a gauge is not present. Another byproduct of this experiment is that we can evaluate where there is the greatest variance in accuracy, which can, in turn, give us a good idea where it might be best to install new stream gauges.
And that should help all of us sleep a lot better—even in Austin.

Paul Allen’s Portland Trail Blazers use Microsoft’s Cortana technology to sell tickets and engage fans

Microsoft's Cortana Technology Tickets

Paul Allen’s Portland Trail Blazers use Microsoft’s Cortana technology to sell tickets and engage fans

By Taylor Soper as written on geekwire.com

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen probably didn’t think that the company he co-founded would one day help his NBA team sell more tickets and engage with fans more effectively. But that’s exactly what the Portland Trail Blazers are doing with Microsoft’s Cortana Intelligence Suite.
The team, owned by Allen since 1988, is using Microsoft’s big data predictive analytics software to learn more about how fans might purchase season tickets, as the company details in this blog post. The Trail Blazers’ marketing team uses Cortana Intelligence to identify different purchasing and attendance patterns among fans to figure out who might be more likely to become a new season ticket holder.
We first learned of this pilot program last month at the Moda Center in Portland, where the Trail Blazers hosted reporters for a run-down of the technology that the front office uses to improve the fan experience, sell more tickets, and much more.

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Speaking of season tickets, the Blazers recently allowed season-ticket holders to use the team’s mobile app to renew their contracts for next season, becoming the first franchise in professional sports to do so. Vincent Ircandia, senior vice president of business operations, noted that if the Blazers tried something similar even three years ago, “we would have gotten incredible pushback.”
But now fans are more comfortable using their phones as a remote control for their lives, and the Blazers are responding. It took a lot of horsepower to activate this feature, with a mobile app partner, the renewal site developer, and Ticketmaster all participating, but the team is happy with the investment.

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“We had 95 percent of season ticket holders renew, and 5 percent did so in the app,” Ircandia said. “We think that is significant. That is a lot of money.”
The team is partnering with a handful of local tech companies to test everything from proximity beacons inside the Moda Center to a parking app to barcode-scanning technology. You can read more about that here.
After losing four starters and entering the season with the league’s lowest payroll, the Blazers are perhaps the biggest surprise of the NBA in 2016. They crushed expectations and won 44 regular season games before again trumping critics with a playoff series win over the Los Angeles Clippers. The team is down 2-1 to the defending champion Golden State Warriors in the second round. Game 4 is Monday night in Portland.

Microsoft starts rolling out Cortana for iOS

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Microsoft starts rolling out Cortana for iOS

Recently, Microsoft unveiled Cortana for iOS. The company asked users in the United States to sign-up for Cortana for iOS beta, and as it seems like, Microsft has finally started rolling out Cortana for iOS to beta testers. The company is rolling out Cortana for iOS via Apple’s TestFlight. Cortana on iOS looks just like it does on Windows 10, Windows 10 Mobile and Android. The personal assistant is able to tell you the weather, keep you updated with the latest news based on your interests, track your packages, flights, keep you updated with sports scores and do some other basic tasks.