Google opens up Assistant as Cortana and Alexa join forces

Alex Kidman 31 August 2017

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Amazon's and Microsoft's voice assistants will start chatting, while Google's Assistant opens itself up to new speaker experiences.

We've seen a recent explosion in the number of available AI chat assistants on smartphones and computers of late, with Apple, Samsung, Google, Amazon and Microsoft all jostling to be the ideal imitation of the computer systems that series such as Star Trek predicted decades ago.

While comic types have made viral money out of getting virtual assistants to talk to each other, up until now they've been walled silos on the official front.

That's set to change with Amazon and Microsoft announcing a partnership at the IFA show in Berlin that will see each company's respective virtual assistants, Alexa and Cortana, talk to each other. While Amazon has yet to launch its Alexa-powered Amazon Echo speaker here in Australia, Cortana has been a fixture on Windows 10 PCs from day one, even though Microsoft's ambitions in the smartphone space have somewhat faltered.

When the integration comes together, you'll be able to initiate each voice assistant from each other's interface to chat.

In a statement, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said that "Ensuring Cortana is available for our customers everywhere and across any device is a key priority for us. Bringing Cortana's knowledge, Office 365 integration, commitments and reminders to Alexa is a great step toward that goal," while his Amazon counterpart, Jeff Bezos commented that "The world is big and so multifaceted. There are going to be multiple successful intelligent agents, each with access to different sets of data and with different specialized skill areas. Together, their strengths will complement each other and provide customers with a richer and even more helpful experience."

Amazon and Microsoft don't have the only virtual assistants gathering attention at IFA, however. While Google's Assistant isn't talking to any of its rivals, at least not yet, the open SDK for integrating Google Assistant has led to a trio of new speaker products to rival Google Home. Anker, Panasonic and Mobvio will all produce Google Assistant-based speakers. There's no specific word on which will hit the Australian market, although Google expects "most" of them to make it to Australia.

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