Windows Phone’s Siri-like personal assistant Cortana seen in action on leaked video

A video has been posted online showing Microsoft’s new personal assistant Cortana working in what is apparently a pre-release version of the big Windows Phone 8.1 update.

The video (which you can see above) has been presented to the world by Unleash The Phones.com, although unfortunately the chap who made it is silent throughout, and didn’t actually test Cortana’s voice recognition powers.

He does go through the setup process though, and shows the basics of how Cortana works, along with a look into the settings menu. It’s well worth a watch, despite some of the mud some YouTube commenters have slung at it (“why doesn’t he speak!!!!!!” and worse, as you can imagine).

The first thing to note is that Cortana requires you to sign in with your Microsoft account. It then asks for your name (and whether it’s pronouncing it correctly), before going through some questions which help the system personalise responses for you. It checks on things such as whether you like cooking, reading, exercising, whether you work night shifts, and what your preferences for news sources are (sports, business, style, travel and so on).

Cortana also uses all the data it can hoover off your phone in order to tailor the voice assistant experience better, such as browser and search history, your location, texts, and, well, pretty much everything. You have to give permission for Cortana to access all this, of course.

It looks like a pretty thorough (if invasive, no doubt in some people’s eyes) setup process that should ensure Cortana is pretty useful right off the bat.

In terms of actual operation, Cortana will work with a simple question and answer format. You’ll nudge the assistant, it then asks “What can I help you with,” and you say exactly that.

Doubtless there’ll be more leakage before Windows Phone 8.1 arrives on the scene (with the big unveil expected at Build next month), and we’ll be keeping our eyes peeled.