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Microsoft wants to kill cost of switching apps by adding Cortana to Skype

The human brain suffers when it has to switch attention to a different task; it’s why you can go to a new room and forget why you’re there, or call someone and forget what you wanted to say. By integrating its digital assistant, Cortana, into the Android and iOS Skype apps, Microsoft wants to kill this ‘switch cost’.

‘Conversation is central in our everyday lives’, says Microsoft. ‘But we often find ourselves in need of information – a fact to share, a place to meet, a movie time or the perfect restaurant. Looking for information often requires interrupting the conversation, even if briefly, and switching apps to find what we’re looking for and bring it back into the conversation. But shouldn’t technology make our lives easier and truly bring the answers we need to our fingertips?’

Some messaging apps already have a touch of artificial intelligence: Allo has the Google Assistant, and iOS has smart replies. Now Skype joins them, with context-sensitive suggestions and recommendations.

Cortana can already provide things like directions or weather reports when directly questioned – and will still be capable of chatting one-on-one, as a new permanent Skype contact – but she will also be able to pull information out of a chat based on what you and your friends or colleagues are talking about.

For example, if the conversation is around scheduling an event, Cortana will recommend settings to set up a reminder (which will appear across all Cortana-enabled devices). If someone says the name of a film, Cortana can pull up the trailer and post it into Skype.

Microsoft is rolling Cortana out to Skype for Android and iOS in the USA now.

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