Intel toys with PC voice activation with Cortana


Windows 10’s digital assistant Cortana cando things like remind users to buy milk, to dictate an e-mail, and dish out trivia. But next year, you can tell her to get your PC out of bed, too.

At the Intel Developer Forum this week, Intel showed off two technologies that will help wake up your PC at the sound of your voice. The first – its “wake on voice” capability – is predicated on Intel’s Smart Sound technology and will debut with the Skylake processor. The other – Intel Ready Mode – is a low-power state that can be found built into the Haswell, Broadwell, and now the Skylake chips.

Here’s how it will all work: Your PC may be in a standby state, but it will be awake – ie able to run virus scans, download e-mail, but without needing to be fully powered on. When you say “Hey Cortana,” the system will fully power up and display the lock screen. At that point, you’ll be able to enter your password, PIN or Windows Hello enabled – simply sit down at your desk and let your PC recognise you.

Windows Hello is a convenience, but it also serves as security protection. Your PC can recognise you by your face, and then authenticate you on other sites across the Internet. (Intel’s True Key technology works in a similar fashion.) The Smart sound technology is much more of a luxury; after all, you could certainly touch your PC’s space bar or power button to wake it up as well.

Intel only, for now
While the Ready Mode technology is already active on millions of PCs, Smart Sound will roll out next year, an Intel engineer said. It appears that you’ll be able to enable “wake on voice” in the Windows 10 Settings menu – the same way that you can turn on Windows Hello. (The other possibility is that you’ll be able to turn it on via the Cortana settings menu.)

There’s one catch: You’ll need to have an Intel-powered PC to make this work. Rival AMD has its own ways of capturing your dollars – through discrete graphics chips, for one – but it isn’t offering anything similar to what Intel promises… yet.

Also, there’s the little matter of being able to get Cortana in the first place. At time of writing, Microsoft is still working on an effective localisation for the digital assistant.

IDG News Service

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