Microsoft Surface smart speaker could be in the works – but will it use Cortana?

harman kardon invoke
The Harman Kardon Invoke (pictured) was the first smart speaker to use Cortana. (Image credit: Harmon Kardon)

A Microsoft Surface smart speaker could be in the works, according to a patent filed by the tech giant, which describes a voice-activated speaker, possibly under the same mantle as the Microsoft Surface Headphones and the Surface Book 2.

The patent for a "Smart Speaker System with Microphone Room Calibration", includes diagrams of what looks like a taller version of the Amazon Echo Dot, with a six-microphone array on its surface. 

Thanks to optical sensors that can detect flat surfaces close to the speaker – like a wall – the microphones are able to calibrate automatically, turning off selected microphones and adjusting far-field microphones to make up for those that have been turned off.

In other words, the smart speaker could potentially adapt its soundstage to better suit the room its in, as well as more accurately detecting voice commands.

What about Cortana?

Other than that, the patent doesn't offer many more details on the Microsoft smart speaker; we don't know whether it would come with a wire, or would be a portable speaker like the Sonos Move, for example.

We also don't know whether Microsoft will attempt to resurrect its voice assistant Cortana to provide the smarts behind this speaker – after all, previous attempts at building a Cortana-powered smart speaker haven't exactly been successful.

The Harmon Kardon Invoke was the first smart speaker to come with Cortana , and it just couldn't compete with the intelligence of Alexa and Google Assistant

Plus, Microsoft has already announced big changes to strip away Cortana’s smart home skills and make it a productivity tool – building the voice assistant into a smart speaker would represent a complete change of direction for the company. 

As with any patent, we can't take this listing as confirmation that Microsoft will be releasing a smart speaker in the near future – though, with the success of the Surface Headphones and the recent release of the Microsoft Surface Headphones 2, we'd be excited to see how the company will extend its audio arm

Via Windows Latest

Olivia Tambini

Olivia was previously TechRadar's Senior Editor - Home Entertainment, covering everything from headphones to TVs. Based in London, she's a popular music graduate who worked in the music industry before finding her calling in journalism. She's previously been interviewed on BBC Radio 5 Live on the subject of multi-room audio, chaired panel discussions on diversity in music festival lineups, and her bylines include T3, Stereoboard, What to Watch, Top Ten Reviews, Creative Bloq, and Croco Magazine. Olivia now has a career in PR.