If you were frustrated by early versions of personal digital assistance apps like Siri or Google Now, it might be time to try again. A new wave of the technology is beginning to roll out with a lot more knowledge and horsepower behind it to help our laptops, tablets and smartphones fit naturally into the way we work and play.
With the rollout of Windows 10 to millions of PCs now underway, Microsoft’s Cortana is the most visible effort of this new wave of personal assistance technology. But there are others, of course. Notably: Apple’s Siri, Google Now for Android, Amazon’s unique living-room product called Echo, and dozens of apps that leverage IBM’s Watson suite of cognitive tools. The apps all promise great advances in the search function, one of the most ubiquitous activities in our connected lives. Even more exciting, though, is the potential they have to transcend beyond looking up things we ask to begin anticipating our needs and, over time, even acting on our behalf.