Microsoft is making its Siri competitor culturally aware

Microsoft’s Cortana virtual personal assistant is a big part of the forthcoming Windows 10 (and, soon, Android and iOS). And Windows 10 is a big part of Microsoft’s product push all over the world, with availability in U.S., UK, China, France, Italy, Germany, and Spain at its July 29th launch.

To further that end, Microsoft today announced in a blog post that Cortana is coming to Japan, Australia, Canada, India, Brazil, and Mexico. Cortana is rolling out first to members of the Windows Insider early testing program by the end of this year, and then to everybody else using Windows 10 after those early international adopters put Cortana through her paces.

It turns out that it’s important that Cortana does get that pre-launch workout, because Microsoft’s blog post also revealed she’s getting tweaked in each market to better serve users in those countries.

For example in China, Cortana will track air quality and alert users:

Microsoft cortana china smogMicrosoftWindows 10’s Cortana will help users in China track smog and air quality.

It extends to more cosmetic things, too. in China, users requested a voice for Cortana who “sounded like she was smiling.” Meanwhile, the UK wanted an “English Rose,” a more easy-going personality with some self-deprecating modesty — and a dry, ironic sense of humour that includes “playful irony” if she detects you’re asking silly questions.

In fact, in all markets, Cortana’s is getting a humour update to make sure she can tell jokes that work in the native language.

And in a nuts-and-bolts kind of way, Cortana will pay more attention to cultural touchstones in each market, Microsoft says. In France, she’s knowledgeable about the Cannes Film Festival. In Canada, Cortana will have opinions about hockey. In India, she’s a fan of cricket star player Sachin Tendulkar. Ask Cortana to sing a song in Italy, which Microsoft says has a strong national identity, and she’ll bust out the national anthem.

Plus, in Japan, Cortana will bow to users by default:

Microsoft cortana japan bowMicrosoftWindows 10’s Cortana will bow to Japanese users by default.

Cortana is a big part of Microsoft’s strategy, presenting users with an easy-to-use, natural-language kind of way to sift huge amounts of data. Making Cortana more accessible to everyone, everywhere is a big step towards that end.

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