Microsoft proposes for Cortana to replace instruction manuals

Microsoft is always looking for ways to make their AI more useful and weave her more tightly into our lives.

Their latest move is to use Cortana to help users set up other devices, as described in a recent patent application.

They write:

… it is often difficult, or at least more than trivial, for a user to connect a newly purchased device with an existing system of one or more devices. Typically, newly purchased devices will come with an instruction manual – perhaps a quick start guide. However, even the instruction manual is often difficult to follow, relies on the user knowing information that the user might not be immediately sure of, and can sometimes be frankly time consuming and frustrating for a user.

At least some embodiments described herein relate to a digital assistance device that at least partially automatically sets up a device so as to operate within a system of one or more other devices. The digital assistance device at least partially automates the setup process that would usually come in a quick start guide. This is made possible by digitalizing the quick start guide so as to be at least partially interpretable by the digital assistance device. The digital assistance device can thereby determine, for each step, what it can do based on its information and capability, but also how the instructions can be simplified based on what it knows, and for what it cannot do, it passes all or a portion of the quick start guide for that step to the user via an intractable interface. Accordingly, potential manual setup tasks are offloaded to automation, thereby simplifying the setup of a device through technical automation.

The patent proposes that Cortana would read the quick start guide which the manufacturer has uploaded to the internet for your new Fitbit for example, help guide you to set up sync, including even filling in fields from information Cortana knows about you already and otherwise giving you multi-step manual instructions for completing the task.

Microsoft sees the technology applicable to a wide variety of devices, including handheld devices, appliances, laptop computers, desktop computers, mainframes, distributed computing systems, datacenters, or even devices that have not conventionally been considered a computing system, such as wearables (e.g., glasses), though I suspect for some of those I would prefer the technician reading the manual :).

Setting up a new gadget can sometimes be daunting, particularly when they are increasingly becoming internet connected, such as my Bluetooth Nespresso for example.  I for one would not mind having a helping hand from Cortana, even if she does remind me somewhat of Clippy.

Do our readers agree?

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