It's unlikely that when Bungie created the game Halo: Combat Evolved almost two decades ago that it thought the in-game artificial intelligence character named Cortana was going to eventually be on everyone's PC. It's even more unlikely when you consider the original Halo was intended to put Mac-based gaming on the map.
Microsoft's acquisition of Bungie and its decision to make Halo the flagship of the Xbox platform(s) changed all that. It also laid the groundwork for turning that sarcastic AI of the 26th century into a working digital assistant for today.
We're beset with digital assistants these days, from Siri on the iPhone and Alexa in the household via its Echo lineup to pretenders like Viv and Hound praying for market share.
Cortana has a special place for the moment: it's the only one built into a desktop operating system; Siri on Mac is still just a rumor. Specifically, Cortana runs on Windows 10—that's 15.34 percent of computers today. She's also accessible via mobile apps, like Cortana for iOS and Android. She'll be on Xbox One soon and of course, she's the in-house personal assistant on Windows Phones.
That was the whole point: that Windows 10 would power desktops, laptops, tablets, and phones, all of which would use Cortana as the AI of choice. However, there aren't really that many Lumia phones from Microsoft out there that run Windows 10, and Microsoft may be killing the whole line anyway.
So, back to the desktop then, where most of us will learn about Cortana. Ignoring her would be a mistake. Voice is the new cornerstone of computing, because it actually works now. And Cortana really does work. Best of all, when she talks back to you, she's the most natural sounding AI yet, much better than Siri or Alexa, probably due in part to being voiced by veteran voice actor Jen Taylor, who played Cortana in all the Halo games.
So let's get started chatting with your new assistant.