Microsoft’s New Surface Earbuds Work With Any Virtual Assistant, Not Just Cortana

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At Microsoft’s annual Surface press event today, the company announced the Surface Earbuds to rival Apple’s AirPods and Amazon’s newly announced Echo Buds. What’s unique about the Surface Earbuds is that, unlike the other two wireless earphones, they can be used with Alexa, Bixby, Google Assistant, Siri, or any other competitor — not just with Cortana. VentureBeat reports: Like the Surface Headphones, the Surface Earbuds don’t do anything until you pair them. Surface Earbuds communicate over Bluetooth 5.0 with an Android, iOS, or Windows 10 device. Once paired, you can tap and hold either of the buds to trigger the default assistant on your device. To use a different virtual assistant with the Surface Earbuds, just change the default assistant on the paired device.

“Out of the box, it just works,” said Surface Earbuds product lead Mohammed Samji. “On PC, it launches Cortana. On iOS, it will launch Siri, unless you’ve changed it. And I think it might vary depending on the distribution of Android, but all the ones I’ve tested, the first time I do it, Android asks me what I want as my default.” Surface Earbuds still offer a better experience with Cortana (although without the “Hey Cortana” wakeword), Samji made sure to emphasize. Surface Earbuds can do everything with Cortana that the Surface Headphones can do, like chit-chat, interact with your email, check your calendar, get your daily update, and create to-dos. Samji said his team created a more streamlined flow for all this Cortana functionality. It’s called Surface Audio. One of the biggest new abilities with the Surface Earbuds is gestures. “Surface Earbuds’ gestures include double tap (go in and out of the call, or play/pause), swipe up and down (control volume), or even swipe forward and back (switch tracks in music, switch slides in PowerPoint),” reports VentureBeat. “Specifically on Android, there’s also a triple tap to launch Spotify under your phone’s lockscreen — you can triple-tap again to have Spotify to choose another song using its ML.”

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