Microsoft showcased for the first time how voice assistants Cortana and Alexa can work together at Build 2018, the company’s annual developer conference.
Megan Saunders, general manager at Microsoft, and Tom Taylor, senior vice president at Amazon Alexa, got on the stage for the presentation, which set up a “home” scene and an “office” scene.
At the home scene, Saunders talked to Alexa on the Echo speaker and added items to the grocery list, and then she said “open Cortana,” and the speaker responded with a different voice, saying ”Cortana here, how can I help?”
When continuing to ask Cortana about her outlook calendar, Saunders didn’t need to repeat the assistant’s name “Cortana” or “Alexa,” and may simply say commands like “How’s my day?” and “Send an email to Tom Taylor saying I’ll see you tonight.”
In the reverse demo, Taylor opened Cortana on his Windows PC at the office scene, and asked for directions to a restaurant from an email. Then he said “Hey Cortana, open Alexa.” The device switched to the Alexa voice and responded “Hi there, this is Alexa. How can I help?” He asked Alexa to call for a Uber ride and to turn off lights on the stage.
Overall, the demo looked smooth. Users won’t need to wait for a long switch between the two assistants or repeat the term Cortana and Alexa. It feels like Cortana is a third-party skill on the Alexa platform.
Microsoft and Amazon didn’t say when the integration will be accessible to all consumers, and only said it’s still in “limited beta.”
The two companies have launched a website and asked developers who build skills for Cortana and Alexa to sign up. When the integration go live, they will receive notifications.
“We believe voice will make customers’ lives easier at home, at work and everywhere in between,” said Taylor. “We share a vision that there will be many intelligent agents working together to provide customers with a more helpful experience.”
The collaboration was announced in summer 2017. The launch date of the integration was set to be the end of 2017, but has since been postponed.