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May 15, 2017

Microsoft Cortana skills: Which are available now and how do they work?

by John_A

Microsoft has launched the first set of skills for Cortana.

During the company’s annual Build developers conference this week, Microsoft announced a Cortana Skills Kit so that developers could create Amazon Alexa-like skills for Microsoft’s voice assistant. A number of partners are already developing skills, and some of them are even available now as an early preview. Here’s everything you need to know about Cortana skills, including a list of the ones out.

  • Microsoft unveils the Surface Laptop, a Windows 10 S device
  • Microsoft will now release major Windows 10 updates twice a year
  • Windows 10 S is a streamlined version of Windows for education

What is Microsoft Cortana?

Cortana is Microsoft’s assistant, sort of like how Apple has Siri, Google has Assistant, and Amazon has Alexa. Cortana is available on Windows 10 devices, as well as Android and iOS devices via the Cortana app.

What are Cortana skills?

Well, before we get into Cortana skills, you should keep in mind that Amazon’s Alexa was the first assistant to provide a set of built-in capabilities referred to as skills. While Amazon itself can create skills, it also opened up Alexa so that third-party developers can build skills for Alexa. Popular Alexa skills include the ability to hail a ride from Uber, post a message to Slack, order a pizza from Domino’s, etc.

Microsoft’s Cortana skills are essentially new skills that are similar to Alexa’s skills. The company has allowed developers to integrate their apps and services into the Cortana voice assistant. One of the first supported skills is the popular Dark Sky weather notification service. So, with it, you can say, “Hey Cortana, ask Dark Sky for today’s forecast,” and then you’ll get a weather forecast via Cortana.

There are actually a variety of other skills available, including iHeartRadio, TuneIn, OpenTable, and even a cute one like Cat Facts. Cortana’s skills are only available in an early preview right now, but many more are expected to launch in full in the coming months.

Which devices can use Cortana skills?

Remember, Cortana is cloud-powered. That means Cortana’s skills will work across any device that use Cortana – whether that is Windows, iOS, or Android. New Cortana-powered devices like Harman Kardon’s Cortana speaker and HP’s Cortana device can also use them. While at Build 2017, Microsoft said consumers can expect many more Cortana-powered devices to arrive later this year.

Microsoft

Which Cortana skills are available?

Microsoft published a list of 46 skills now available in early preview.

  • Dark Sky: “Hey Cortana, ask Dark Sky for today’s forecast.”
  • Domino’s Pizza: “Hey Cortana, ask Domino’s to place my Easy Order.”
  • Food Network: “Hey Cortana, ask Food Network for recipes by Ina Garten.”
  • OpenTable: “Hey Cortana, ask Open Table to reserve a table at Palomino.”
  • Progressive: “Hey Cortana, ask Progressive for tips to save money.”
  • Skyscanner: “Hey Cortana, ask Skyscanner if the flight to Edinburgh is on time?”
  • TuneIn: “Hey Cortana, play 90.3 on TuneIn.”
  • iHeartRadio: “Hey Cortana, play Z100 on iHeartRadio.”
  • Akinator: “Hey Cortana, ask Akinator to start.”
  • Bartender: “Hey Cortana, ask Bartender how to make a Manhattan. ”
  • Gigseekr: “Hey Cortana, ask Gigseekr for information about Ed Sheeran.”
  • Intelligent Inbox Assistant: “Hey Cortana, ask Knowmail for my emails.”
  • MyTime: “Hey Cortana, ask MyTime to book a hair coloring in Bellevue.”
  • Porch: “Hey Cortana, ask Porch to fix my roof.”
  • TalkLocal: “Hey Cortana, tell TalkLocal that I need a plumber to repair a broken water heater.”
  • VentureBeat News: “Hey Cortana, ask VentureBeat to read me the news?”
  • Baby Stats: “Hey Cortana, ask Baby Stats to add poop and pee.”
  • Celtics Fan: “Hey Cortana, ask Celtics Fan to give me a flash briefing.”
  • The Pledge of Allegiance: “Hey Cortana, launch the Pledge of Allegiance.”
  • Applause: “Hey Cortana, ask Applause to give me some applause. ”
  • The Name Game Song: “Hey Cortana, ask Name Game.”
  • Short Bedtime Story: “Hey Cortana, tell Bedtime Story.”
  • Starfish Me: “Hey Cortana, Ask Starfish Me for my Wi-Fi pass.”
  • Starfish Dico: “Hey Cortana, ask Starfish Dico to say dinner is ready.”
  • Inspire Me: “Hey Cortana, launch Inspire Me.”
  • My Therapist: “Hey Cortana, ask My Therapist for some conversation.”
  • Starfish Messenger: “Hey Cortana, Ask Starfish for my messages.”
  • Starfish Peeps: “Hey Cortana, ask Starfish Peeps who is Ryder?”
  • The National Anthem: “Hey Cortana, open The National Anthem.”
  • Haunted House: “Hey Cortana, ask Haunted House to scare me. ”
  • Presidents Trivia: “Hey Cortana, open Presidents Trivia.”
  • A Magic Trick: “Hey Cortana, launch Magic Trick.”
  • Warriors Fan: “Hey Cortana, ask Warriors Fan to give me a flash briefing.”
  • Woman of the Day: “Hey Cortana, ask Woman of the Day who’s the woman of the day?”
  • Bargain Buddy: “Hey Cortana, ask Bargain Buddy for the Woot deal.”
  • Sound Effects: “Hey Cortana, ask Sound Effects to play air horn.”
  • Tact: “Hey Cortana, ask Tact what is the latest on Globex opportunity.”
  • Cat Facts: “Hey Cortana, open Cat Facts.”
  • Washington State Ferry: “Hey Cortana, ask Washington State Ferry when is the next ferry from Seattle to Bainbridge Island?”
  • Spurs Fans: “Hey Cortana, ask Spurs Fan what is the Spurs conference standing?”
  • Cavaliers Fan: “Hey Cortana, ask Cavaliers Fan to give me a flash briefing.”
  • Ghost Detector: “Hey Cortana, launch Ghost Detector. ”
  • Powerball Helper: “Hey Cortana ask Powerball Helper for lottery numbers. ”
  • Internet of Things Facts: “Hey Cortana, ask Internet of Things for a fact. ”
  • Ask My Buddy: “Hey Cortana, ask My Buddy to send help.”
  • WebHR: “Hey Cortana, ask WebHR about the upcoming birthdays.”
  • Headline News: “Hey Cortana, ask Headline News to get me the latest headlines from Asia. ”
  • Starfish Band: “Hey Cortana, ask Starfish Band for my activities.”
  • Word of the Day: “Hey Cortana ask Daily Word.”
  • Bucket List: “Hey Cortana, ask Bucket List to give me a good idea.”
  • Boo: “Hey Cortana, ask Boo. ”

How do Cortana skills work?

Some skills may need to be setup before you can invoke them. Domino’s has created a Cortana skill, for instance, but you need to link a Domino’s Pizza account before you can start ordering pizza through Cortana. You can learn more about each Cortana skill now available, including the phrases that invoke them, how to set them up, and which devices they support, on this Microsoft website.

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