Video game fans became giddy last fall upon hearing that Microsoft was developing a Siri competitor for Windows Phone code-named Cortana, after the AI companion of protagonist Master Chief in the Halo series. Now, it looks like Microsoft is going all in on that sci-fi vision for its personal assistant: Jen Taylor, the actress who played Cortana, is onboard to become the voice behind the information service, Microsoft blog MSFTnerd reported Thursday.
Little else has been dug up regarding the progress of the Cortana project or its arrival other than that it would likely come in one form or another with Windows Phone 8.1 sometime in early 2014. MSFTnerd is claiming as much, slating a Cortana beta launch on Lumia devices for this April, which coincides with Microsoft's annual Build conference in San Francisco.
MSFTnerd is also saying that Cortana will make its way to the Bing app for iPhone this fall and American Xbox One and Windows users in 2015 with the release of Windows Threshold, Microsoft's next-generation OS currently in the works.
CNET has reached out to both Taylor and Microsoft to confirm these reports and will update this story if we hear back.
With the rise of personal assistants like Siri and more ambitious plans to weave them into much more than our phones -- as Google is doing with Google Now -- it's no wonder Microsoft is trying to differentiate its service with a pop-culture staple and a commitment to making it as true-to-the-original as possible.
And with films like Spike Jonze's "Her" popularizing the notion that our personal computing futures will be abound in human-like AI companions, a personal assistant with a distinct name, recognizable voice (at least to gamers), and well-developed personality thanks to multiple Halo releases has an undeniably cool factor. While it may not create an excess of Windows Phone converts, it will certainly influence the AI landscape if it does in fact arrive soon on desktops and tablets with Windows Threshold.
Earlier this month -- when Microsoft announced that the Xbox One had surpassed 3 million units in sales -- it omitted Halo when discussing upcoming Xbox One titles to celebrate. That caused many fans to bemoan the wait for what is presumably Halo 5, a flagship Xbox One title that currently has one ambiguous trailer, shown last May, to its name. A Microsoft PR spokesperson quickly confirmed that Halo would in fact be arriving by the end of the year.
As the Cortana personal assistant is built out, and most likely retains that moniker from code-named beta to full-fledged service, we can only assume that the Halo series and its iconic characters will become an even larger cornerstone of Microsoft's greater voice and AI efforts in 2014. Though for those privy to the Halo universe and the nature of Cortana's character, it will surely be interesting to see how Microsoft juggles the rollout of its service alongside this new Halo release and its potential plot points.
Update at 2:06 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 16: Microsoft has declined to comment on the veracity of the report.