Software & Web Development

Hulu's Windows 10 app has a weird way of talking to Cortana

Microsoft’s Windows 10 app push is getting another big name with the arrival of Hulu.

Like most Windows Store apps, Hulu for Windows 10 has an adaptive layout that automatically reflows to fit any window size. It also includes a Live Tile that teases new content in the Start menu. As a Universal Windows Platform app, the new version of Hulu is available for Windows 10 Mobile phones as well.

But Hulu’s most interesting new feature is also its strangest: Users can now search for Hulu videos by voice through Windows 10’s Cortana assistant. That way you can quickly play the first episode of a series or pick up from where you left off without lifting a finger.

The only problem is the way in which users must speak these particular voice commands. The examples Microsoft gives are “Hey Cortana, Hulu play Family Guy,” and “Hey Cortana, Hulu play Empire.” The more natural-sounding “Hey Cortana, play Family Guy on Hulu” doesn’t work.

This may sound like a nitpick, but the syntax—which is common to Cortana's verbal commands—is something Microsoft ought to fix if it’s going to imbue Cortana with more third-party app powers. The more apps that support Cortana voice searches, the harder it’ll be to remember unnatural arrangements of words. For an example of how things should work, just look at the Alexa virtual assistant on Amazon’s Echo connected speaker, which supports phrases like “ Alexa, play Pearl Jam from Spotify.”

Why this matters: Voice control quirks aside, Microsoft is at least making progress in getting big brands to update their Windows 8 apps to the new Universal Windows Platform. Other recent examples include Netflix, Dropbox, Box, Shazam, Twitter, TripAdvisor, and Pandora, some of which are taking advantage of unique Windows 10 features such as Windows Hello integration. Cortana would be another way to sell the idea of Windows Store apps over traditional desktop programs, provided Microsoft can get the syntax down.

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