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Windows Phone 8.1 Cortana voice assistant to use FourSquare data

The Windows Phone 8.1 Cortana voice assistant will utilise FourSquare when it is eventually released next month.

Microsoft recently purchased a $15 million (£9.2 million) stake in FourSquare in order to add restaurant and entertainment suggestions to its Windows Phone range.

This investment will also allow Microsoft to use FourSquare location data for its voice-activated assistant Cortana in Windows Phone 8.1, named after the character from the Halo game series.

Although Cortana has yet to be announced, “a person with knowledge of the plans” said Microsoft’s Cortana aims to be a direct competitor to Apple’s Siri technology, especially as it will be equipped with FourSquare technology.

“This is huge validation for the stuff we’ve been working so hard on,” said FourSquare CEO Dennis Crowley after the Microsoft investment. “It’s one of the leaders in the space we work in looking at us and saying we can really help power the next generation of devices.”

Cortana is heavily rumoured to be a major new feature introduced with Windows Phone 8.1, which is expected to be released within the next few months.

This is based on information from “a person familiar with the project and FourSquare agreement”, who wished to remain anonymous when speaking with Bloomberg.

The FourSquare data would allow Microsoft to push out suggestions, tips and other information like discounts to the user based on their location and settings of course, according to Zig Serafin, a vice president of the Bing search unit at Microsoft.

“We building some contextually aware experiences to power some upcoming products in Windows Phone,” said Serafin, without directly mentioning Cortana. “This will be for anywhere you get a Bing-powered experience.”

Windows Phone 8.1 is expected to be officially unveiled at Microsoft’s Build Conference in April, with rumoured features including a swipe-down notifications centre and a quick settings menu.

Other smaller new features include the likes of separate media playback and ringtone controls, VPN support and Windows 8.1 style Bing Smart Searches.

At least Microsoft has confirmed that all Windows Phone 8 users will be able to download the Windows Phone 8.1 update.

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