Using Cortana and Speech Recognition Together on Windows 10

Equal Entry
October 1, 2015

One of the holy grails of computing is to one day be able to have machines perform perfect speech recognition. The ability to control computers with speech benefits everyone, but can be specifically powerful for people with disabilities. Many people are unable to use a mouse or keyboard due to physical constraints. Additionally, people may experience pain when trying to use a mouse or keyboard. These users will benefit from being able to always use their voice to control the computer.

Cortana has been asked to tell a joke. "What did the zero say to the eight? Nice belt."
Windows Cortana

Cortana is a new personal assistant feature added to Windows 10 that allows you to control your computer with your voice. One limitation of Cortana is that it has a very specific set of functionality that can be performed using voice input. This limitation is shared with other digital assistant’s such as Apple’s Siri and Google’s Google Now. It is exciting to note that on Windows 10, Cortana can be combined with Windows Speech Recognition to enable many more scenarios to be completed hands-free. Note that Windows Speech Recognition is only available for the following languages: English, French, German, Korean, Japanese, Mandarin, and Spanish.

Customization Recommendations

In this section we are providing a set of recommendations for how to configure your PC to have the most success when using it hands-free.

For best results we recommend that you:

  1. Select and configure your microphone
  2. Train your computer to recognize your speech
  3. Configure Windows Speech Recognition to start when you log in
  4. Configure Internet Explorer to be the default web browser

Select and configure microphone

A headset microphone will generally give the best results because the microphone is closer to your mouth, and therefore it has a better ability to block out additional background sound in the environment where you are using your computer. If you do not own a microphone headset, you can typically use the microphone built into your computer.

Train your computer to recognize your speech

The computer will ask you to read a short excerpt of text to learn how you pronounce different words. By taking the time to let the computer know how you speak, you will get better results.

  1. Open Speech Recognition by clicking the Start button, clicking Control Panel, clicking Ease of Access, and then clicking Speech Recognition.
  2. Click “Train your computer to better understand you.”
  3. Follow the instructions on the screen.

Configure Windows Speech Recognition to start when you log in

If you want to use speech recognition at all times, you can set it up to automatically start when you turn on your computer.

  1. Search for “Speech Recognition” in the Start menu
  2. Underneath the “Settings” header, select “Speech Recognition.”
  3. Activate “Advanced Speech Options”
  4. In the “User Settings” section, ensure that “Run Speech Recognition at startup” is checked
  5. Activate the “Apply” button

Configure Internet Explorer to be the default web browser

Based on our usage experiments, Internet Explorer provided the best results for controlling the computer with voice.

  1. Search for “Default Programs” in the Start menu
  2. Activate the “Select your default programs” item
  3. From the “Programs” list, select “Internet Explorer”
  4. Activate the “Set this program as default button”
  5. Activate the “OK” button to close the dialog

Common Cortana Commands

Here are a few commands you can use with Cortana.

To do this Say this
Wake up Cortana “Hey Cortana”
Change time information for event in calendar “Change my 3 PM event to 4”
Search NBA basketball scores “Show me the latest NBA scores”

Common Speech Recognition Commands

Here are a few commands you can use with Windows Speech Recognition.

To do this Say this
Wake up speech recognition “Start Listening”
Pause speech recognition from listening to your voice “Stop Listening”
Scroll in one direction “Scroll Up”
“Scroll Down”
Add numbers to everything clickable on the screen “Show Numbers”

Full List of Speech Recognition Commands

Equal Entry
Accessibility technology company that offers services including accessibility audits, training, and expert witness on cases related to digital accessibility.