Microsoft is delivering a new beta build of Windows 10 to testers this week, packed with a lot of small additions. Chief among them is some interesting changes to Cortana, Microsoft’s digital assistant. In build 14986 of Windows 10, available now for Fast Ring testers, Cortana will now let you turn off your PC, put it to sleep, or restart by using your voice. Cortana also supports the ability to lock a PC and change the system volume.
Microsoft is also adding some music playback controls to Cortana, allowing Windows 10 users to play tracks from services like iHeartRadio and TuneIn Radio even when a PC is locked. You can even ask “Hey Cortana, what song is playing?” to find out what song is currently playing. Microsoft is also tweaking the Cortana user interface with a new idle feature. If your PC is idle for more than 10 seconds then you can use “Hey Cortana” to bring up a full-screen interface that’s optimized for viewing it from across the room. It’s very similar to the lockscreen functionality of Cortana.
All of these new Cortana additions come just after Microsoft unveiled its hardware plans to take on Amazon’s Echo with Windows 10 PCs. Microsoft and Intel are collaborating to lay the hardware groundwork for new devices that run Windows 10 with support for far-field speech communications and wake on voice. The ability for Cortana to handle more voice controls pushes Windows 10 closer to competing with an Echo or Google Home device, and Microsoft is expected to deliver a special HomeHub feature next year to extend these new devices even further.
Alongside the new Cortana features, Microsoft is also tweaking other features in this Windows 10 test build. Windows Ink now supports resuming previous sketches, and the ink visuals have been improved along with the removal of the cursor while you’re drawing. Microsoft has also added a new Windows Defender dashboard to this test build of Windows 10, which is designed to replace the existing desktop app.