Yesterday we learned that Apple named their voice assistant Siri mainly because it meant nice things in several different languages. Microsoft's Cortana has drastically different origins. Apparently, in Halo, a popular video game developed by a subsidiary of Microsoft Studios set in the twenty-sixth centuries, there is an AI called Cortana who helps humanity but eventually is revealed to have an evil streak. Subsequently, when Microsoft started developing a voice assistant to rival Apple's Siri, they used Cortana as a code name for the project. At the time, it was just a fun thing to call it, but the developers (and fans who had heard about the labeling) clamored for the name to stay, and Microsoft eventually agreed. After all, the trisyllabic name Cor-tan-a is easy for the machine to recognize, and it's different from other names, so there won't be many mistakes (a concept also used in naming Siri). Am I the only one thinking it's disturbing that the assistant on Windows phones is named after a nefarious AI?
Adam Aleksic is a sophomore studying linguistics and government at Harvard University. He also has disturbing interests in politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, and law.