Cortana in the car: Microsoft may use its digital assistant to get back on the road

Microsoft, a fallen pioneer of car tech, is prototyping a connected car that uses Cortana for speech control, along with a head-up display.

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Cortana in the car? It could happen. The Taipei Times reported that Samuel Shen, chief operating officer at the Microsoft Asia-Pacific Research and Development Group, said Microsoft has developed a prototype of a connected car that uses Cortana as an interface. Instead of forcing you to glance at the dashboard (taking your eyes off the road) the prototype projects information onto your windshield. A head-up display is already used in some cars to show speed, navigation, and other data. Microsoft's prototype display can show directions or allow the driver to make reservations at local restaurants, the paper reported. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay remain stuck in the car's in-dash display. 

Last year, Microsoft showed off Windows for cars, based on a concept oriented around Windows 8. With the advent of Windows 10 and Cortana, however, Microsoft has updated its vision. 

Adding Cortana as the speech interface achieves many of the goals Microsoft laid out last year: reducing the “cognitive load,” or the requirement to think about what you’re doing; glanceability, or minimizing the “eye time” on the screen beyond 2 seconds; trying to minimize the effects of different screen sizes; and doing away with the need to touch tiny onscreen buttons—which might be OK on a phone, but much less so at 65 mph. should cover all those goals.

Why this matters: Microsoft originally led in car technology with its SYNC platform for Ford, only to see itself look increasingly old-school as people's expectations were shaped by faster, friendlier smartphones. Now QNX has taken over Ford's SYNC 3, and Google's Android Auto and Apple's CarPlay are grasping for more control of the car through people's phones. Windows in the car is another chance for Microsoft, and speech-controlled Cortana can lead the way. It shouldn't be that hard for Microsoft to port Windows 10 to the car—it’s just a big, rolling, connected tablet, right? 

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