Windows 10 is finally bringing back a feature it removed from your PC one year ago

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Microsoft stripped out the ability to summon AI assistant Cortana with a wake phrase with its Windows 10 May 2020 update last year. At the time, the move was seen as a sign that Microsoft was bowing out of trying to compete with the likes of Alexa and Google Assistant – AI-powered assistants that can control your smart lighting, interact with your Smart TV, play music from a home speaker, and more. Instead, the newly scaled-back Cortana became more of a productivity tool inside Windows 10.

However, Microsoft seemed to reverse course in November when it confirmed that support for barking “Cortana” at your laptop or desktop PC to summon the digital assistant would return in future updates.

A number of Windows 10 users started to see the functionality return to their Windows 10 machine at the tail-end of last year, however, numbers were extremely limited. According to a new report from Italian blog HTNovo, a recent update to the Cortana app will return the feature to a much greater number of PC owners. Updating the Cortana app to version 2.2011.11613.0 should bring back the wake word feature that was ditched almost one year ago.

Interestingly, the feature isn’t enabled by default, so those who want to summon Cortana without typing in the search bar in the lower left-hand corner of the screen will need to dive into the Cortana app settings. In this window, you need to look out for the heading marked Talk To Cortana. Beneath this, you should see an option called Wake word.

“Cortana starts listening when I say ‘Cortana’,” Microsoft explains. Clicking to enable this option will open the Voice Activation settings in Windows 10, which will let you activate this option to work system-wide.

Microsoft announce the Windows 10 update

Interestingly, Microsoft has changed the wake word since it was stripped out of the operating system last year. Previously, users would have to say “Hey, Cortana” to wake the digital assistant from its slumber and start listening to your request.

But now, following the reintroduction of the technology, Microsoft is only listening out for “Cortana”. Apple and Google both require a longer wake phrase, “Hey Siri” and “Hey, Google” or “OK, Google” respectively, to avoid false-positives.

With the latest change, Microsoft is now following in the footsteps of Amazon’s hugely-successful assistant Alexa, which can be activated with its two-syllable name alone.

Microsoft will need to build-up Cortana’s skill set before the Windows 10 assistant can compete with the likes of Google Assistant and Alexa, however, it’s nice to see that the Redmond-based firm is once again in the race. For now, you’ll only be able to ask about the weather, get Cortana to tell you a joke, or launch settings menu, like Bluetooth options, with a voice command.

Unfortunately, you won’t be able to order a taxi, like Microsoft demoed on-stage during an early Windows 10 keynote, or juggle playlists from your favourite music streaming service. For those tasks, you’ll still want to have an Amazon Echo or Google Nest plugged-in nearby.

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