Microsoft had earlier offered a glimpse of the virtual assistant, Cortana in the workplace, now the company has fully targeted it for duties in its growing portfolio of productivity tools.
First off, Microsoft brings a hands-free way to follow up on emails, with Cortana offering a summary of all new emails a user has received in the past 24 hours, with an estimation of how long it will take to read them all. Now, the AI voice assistant can highlight changes to the calendar and potentially be able to schedule events for that day, via the integration with Outlook’s Calendar app.
Cortana will also be able to inform you on how long emails have been sitting in the inbox, and additional information such as the identity of the sender or if the email contains any attachments, including links and embedded files.
Gartner Research had predicted that over 25 percent of digital workers will be using virtual assistants on daily basis starting from 2021; and this is opportunity for SMBs to employ virtual assistant technology in the daily auxiliary office processes, which in turn will give them more time to attend to other customers issues, as it will reduce delays in communications.
Microsoft has touted the Play My Emails feature as more like a conversation with ones personal assistant than just basic conversion of email from text to audio. By simply saying “Hey, Cortana” a user can interrupt the readout to give further commands (such as skipping messages, or flagging email for later reading or archiving them) or even to dictate the email response using the natural voice and language recognition.
No doubt, Microsoft is having a vantage position to win in the race for Office dominance, as it already boasts of the most popular business apps with Office 365, with currently over 200 million monthly active users globally. However, Microsoft will have to prove it can truly deliver on the promise of more natural conversations.
Microsoft has even added a masculine voice option to Cortana for interactions, and users can easily access the option from the Outlook app’s settings. While a scheduler feature is currently in preview and hopefully, will be generally available next year.
Additional features coming soon to Cortana, includes: ability to send daily briefing email with summary of upcoming meetings and relevant documents, also set up meetings with new Scheduler feature and simply by “cc-ing” Cortana into a mail, a user can ask the AI assistant to book a call or locate a meeting room and it will present a series of options based on availability.