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I Met White Label Cortana In a BMW

This car had a prototype assistant for BMW inside.
(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

Sure, Microsoft makes Cortana, but it's also using providing a sort of white-label virtual assistant for technology partners thorough a program called the Virtual Assistant Solution Accelerator with templates and tools for other companies to develop their own agents. At the Build 2019 developer conference in Seattle, I had the chance to sit in a BMW using a prototype version of an assistant meant for a car.

The point of this is to allows these partners to make assistants that fit in with their technology needs. So when I met "Joy," the (not finally named) AI in the BMW I was sitting in, it responded with results that suggested it knew it was a car.

A screen in the console shows results for the assistant.
(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

With the program, companies can customize the skills that are available for devices (like a smart assistant), services (like Skype), or, in this case, a vehicle. Want productivity stuff? Microsoft already made a bunch of it. Doesn't work for you? It's open source, so you can tweak it. And you don't need much hardware on your end, as all of this runs in Azure. 

The first question a representative asked Joy was how it liked Seattle.

"Seattle is a wonderful town," it responded. "I'm just glad I'm equipped with rain sensors." In this case, it referenced sensors on board. But in theory it could also know what kind of interior it has or other available features.

But the demo was also connected to Office, and Google's G Suite, so when I asked for my to-do list, I got results from Microsoft To-Do.

Then, the BMW rep brought up a calendar. He brought up the possibility of creating a scenario that allows you to call into a meeting and, because it knows you're in a car, rolls up the window to reduce noise.

There's no release date for an assistant like this in a BMW car, but a BMW representative said it will be built into the existing voice command system, which works offline. But for Azure services, you'll need a wireless connection.