Cortana and Third-Party Services – Foursquare Today… More to Come in the Future

Have you watched the movie “Her”? I think many aspects of the OS’s design in the movie will eventually find their way in personal assistants. Some already are here… “

I do believe that, in the not-so-distant future, personal assistant experiences such as Cortana will be the primary human-computer interface for consuming information and interacting with services on the Internet (see “Convergence of User Experiences“). Integration with third-party services is one of the key capabilities necessary in realizing the vision of seamless task completion experiences, enabling the users do more through technology! Today Cortana made yet-another important step towards achieving that goal: integration with Foursquare.

Back in April, when we revealed Cortana to the world, I wrote about the role of the Bing platform as her enabling force. Recently, during a talk at the School of Computing Science, University of Newcastle, I gave more details about how the cloud enables Cortana (slides also embedded below). Our cloud platform allows us to quickly fix any issues, learn, and evolve our speech, natural language, and inference models. We keep an eye on which features work and which ones don’t. We take corrective actions to make sure that Cortana provides the best user experience possible. Furthermore, we are able to introduce new features and experiences in a continuous, agile fashion. And all these without the need to update the Windows Phone OS.

bestnearby Elan Levy wrote about a brand new feature we introduced earlier today… a Foursquare-powered card that offers “best nearby” suggestions. This isn’t the first time Cortana gets a new capability since her introduction to the world back in April. There have been numerous updates, as many of you have already noticed. However, today’s announcement represents Cortana’s first attempt to directly integrate with a third-party service. While it has been possible, from the very beginning, to launch third-party apps on the phone using voice commands, this is the first time we surface an experience that is directly powered by a third-party service. The “best nearby” feature will allow us to learn, mostly on the operational front (e.g. reliability, latency, traffic bandwidth, etc), what it means to directly integrate with a third-party service. The integration is basic and non-personalized at the moment but be assured that much more is coming on multiple fronts.

With Cortana now rolling out to Windows Phones across mobile operators in the US and with some international releases imminent, please give the feature a go and let us know what you think. Feel free to drop me a message if you prefer.