Cortana will provide an emergency phone number when she hears “I was raped”

Michael Cottuli

It’s incredibly vital that technology’s first priority is to help maintain the health of its user. This is doubly true of interactive assistants like Cortana and Siri, programs that were constructed in order to be the immediate go-to for somebody in any time of need – whether it be as innocent as looking up an actor’s name, or as serious as requiring medical attention or support from a crisis hotline. In France, Cortana is the only interactive assistant that provides the latter kind of support.

While this functionality is lacking in the US version of Cortana, the French version of the assistant will respond to statements like “I was raped” and “I want to kill myself” by referring the user to a crisis hotline where, hopefully, they can find the support that they need to make it through their crisis. It’s odd to see that support for this feature is unique to the French version of Cortana, and hopefully Microsoft spreads this to every other version of the assistant very soon.

Even in France, Siri (Cortana’s only real competitor) fails to respond to these prompts with anything helpful – not recognizing them as anything more significant than a request to search “I was raped.” It should be the sincere hope of both Microsoft and Apple that the teams behind their interactive assistants will make a real effort to recognize cries for help, and react accordingly. In the meantime, it’s great to see that the French version of Cortana has taken a step in the right direction, and made access to hotlines more readily available to the people that need them the most.