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Microsoft partners with HP and Intel to create Cortana-enabled devices and reference platforms

By Ng Chong Seng - on 10 May 2017, 11:00pm

Microsoft partners with HP and Intel to create Cortana-enabled devices and reference platforms

At its annual Build developer conference, Microsoft has announced that the Cortana Skills Kit, is now available in the U.S. in public preview form. Before today, only select partners and developers have access to it. Harman Kardon’s upcoming Invoke speaker is an example of a standalone hardware device built on the Cortana Devices SDK. Microsoft has previously indicated a late February timeframe for the public preview of the Cortana Skills Kit, but has held it off until today.

For the uninitiated, Cortana Skills Kit lets developers use code they’ve written for services and/or bots developed on the company’s Bot Framework, Amazon Alexa skills, or Cortana voice commands as the basis for new Cortana skills. Cortana skills don’t just work on Windows 10, but also across Android and iOS.

Microsoft has also announced that it’s partnering with HP to build Cortana-enabled devices and Intel to build reference platforms. By tapping the latter’s help to create a hardware baseline, Microsoft hopes more devices makers will come forward to make Cortana-powered devices. Mind you, we aren't just talking about speakers here, Microsoft also demoed Cortana working in cars.

Competing with Amazon’s Alexa on the skills front has proven to be an uphill battle for Cortana. More than 12,000 skills are already available for Alexa, and Amazon has just announced updates to the Alexa Skills Kit for optimizing the experience on the touchscreen Echo Show. Here is the full list of 46 Cortana skills currently available as an early preview.

Cortana has skills, too.

Microsoft has also announced new plans to make AI accessible to all. The company’s Bot Framework is gaining adaptive cards support, so developers can write cards once and they will look great across different apps and platforms. Developers can also now publish to new channels, such as Bing, Cortana and Skype for Business, and implement Microsoft’s payment request API for fast and easy checkout in their bots.

Microsoft Cognitive Services, a collection of intelligence APIs that enables systems to see, hear, speak, understand, and interpret our needs using natural methods of communication, is also adding four new customizable services, bringing the total number of services offered to 29. These new services include Bing Custom Search, Custom Vision Service, Custom Decision Service, and Video Indexer. An upcoming PowerPoint add-in called Presentation Translator, which leverages Microsoft’s Translation API for real-time translation to multiple languages during any presentation, was also featured. Microsoft also launched the Cognitive Services Labs, a place for developers to experiment with new services. One of the first AI services available via this lab is a gesture API that’s currently still in the early stages of development.

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