Meet ‘Cortana,’ Microsoft’s upcoming Windows Phone digital assistant and answer to Siri

Microsoft's upcoming digital assistant dubbed "Cortana" has just leaked online, giving us a first glimpse at how the service will work.

Cortana is expected to launch soon as Microsoft's answer to Apple's Siri and Google Now. The rumor mill has been churning for a good while in regards to Cortana, and now the purported digital assistant shows its moves in some freshly-leaked images.

The folks over at The Verge are offering a first look at how the much-rumored Windows Phone digital assistant will work on the next version of the Windows Phone OS.

"Sources familiar with Microsoft's plans have revealed to The Verge how Cortana looks and operates, replacing the built-in Bing search functionality on Windows Phone 8.1," reports the publication. "While the feature is named after the Halo game series, Cortana will take the form of a circular animated icon instead of a female character. Cortana will animate when it's speaking or thinking, forming a personality not dissimilar to Apple's Siri."

According to the report, Cortana will allow Windows Phone users to perform tasks on their handset using voice commands, and it will respond by talking back to the user. As The Verge mentions, an animated circle (see first image above) will show users that work is in progress.

The upcoming service will reportedly save users' data in a "Notebook," gaining relevant knowledge to accurately answer their questions. For instance, Cortana will have access to users' calendars and contact info, which will allow it to automatically send reminders and other useful notifications.

Moreover, Cortana will also be able to get information from users' email account to automatically send alerts about flights or other information one didn't explicitly inquire about, similarly to how Google Now works its magic.

It's worth mentioning, however, that while Google Now mines data from Google apps such as Gmail and Calendar, Cortana will not only draw information from Microsoft's Bing tools, but also from third-party sources such as Foursquare.

Cortana is not official just yet, and it may ultimately launch under a different name, but the service is expected to make its big debut at Microsoft's BUILD conference next month, along with the new Windows Phone 8.1.

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