Meet Microsoft Cortana

Voice Recognition Meets Artificial Intelligence


Ever so often in the tech world, new products get released with catchy names, some of which can make you feel stupid because of ignorance, if mentioned by peers in those techy conversations that we love so much! One such catchy word is Cortana. So what’s Microsoft Cortana?

If you remember very well during the glory days of Nokia phones, almost a decade ago, one cool feature I still remember vividly today was an awesome voice recognition feature available on some of the high-end Nokia models that could help you make calls by simply speaking a phrase to the phone like “Call Jane”. Now, Cortana is voice-recognition driven intelligent personal assistant that can do exactly just that (what the Nokia phones used to do) and more!

First introduced to Windows Phone 8.1, Cortana can help you do useful things on your phone like:

  • Calling people (saved in your phone book)
  • Sending text messages
  • Adding reminders to your calender
  • Playing music on your phone
  • Telling you what the weather is.
  • Give you news feeds based on your interests e.g sports game results or traffic alerts.
  • Setting the alarm for you.

In short, Cortana is a very useful personal assistant that can save you lots of time that you would have otherwise have used to manually type or swipe on your phone to do these simple every day tasks. So the next question is, what can you say to Cortana to get her to do some of these tasks listed above? Below is a table detailing key phrases that you can speak to Cortana on your Windows Phone, to get her to do some tasks for you:

Task or subject Some ideas to get you started


  • How old are you?
  • Tell me a joke
  • Where are you from?


  • Make a call to John at home
  • Call Soumow on speakerphone
  • Call Tomoko
  • Call Raina, home


  • Text Dad
  • Message Anna
  • Text Horatio Do you want to get a coffee this afternoon?


  • Put swimming on my calendar for tomorrow
  • Change my 3 pm event to 4
  • What do I have next?
  • What’s happening this weekend?


  • Remind me to pick up my dry cleaning tomorrow
  • Remind me to water the plants when I get home
  • Next time I’m at the supermarket, remind me to buy bananas (if Cortana isn’t sure which one you mean, she’ll ask)
  • When Jordana calls, remind me to congratulate her on her new column
  • Remind me to call Luther when I leave work


  • Wake me up at 6 am
  • Set an alarm for 5:45 am
  • Turn off my 3 pm alarm
  • Wake me up in 20 minutes


  • Take a note
  • Note: left my car on level 4
  • Take a note: find bird-watching book for Dad’s birthday


  • Play [artists]
  • Put on
  • Start playing [song]
  • Play some jazz
  • Play [album]
  • What song is playing?

Maps and directions

  • Get me directions to the Eden Project
  • Where am I?
  • How long will it take me to get to Big Ben?
  • Show me a map of 123 High Street
  • How far to Snowdonia?
  • What’s traffic like on the way to work?

Places to go

  • Is there a Starbucks near me?
  • Find a cheap pizza place that’s open now
  • Show me highly rated restaurants nearby
  • Is [place] open at weekends?


  • Will it rain this weekend?
  • Is it cold out?
  • What’s the weather like today?
  • What’s the forecast for next week?
  • Is it hot in Paris right now?


  • Who is the tallest woman in the world?
  • Who is the president of Portugal?
  • What’s the capital of Qatar?


  • What’s the status of British Airways flight 628?
  • Is Qantas flight 16 on time?


  • Latest Premier League scores?
  • Latest Manchester United score
  • When was the last London Irish game?


  • Convert 60 pounds to yen
  • How many euros in a pound?
  • How much is a Nokia share?
  • How did the Asian markets do?

Health and fitness

  • Suggest some weight loss workouts
  • Get me a beginner’s Pilates workout
  • How many calories are in a boiled egg?
  • How much protein is in a cup of milk?

To learn more about what Cortana can do for you and how to get it to work on your Windows Phone, visit the official Microsoft Cortana page. Also watch the very cool video provided!!

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