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Microsoft

So you’re on the train trying to read your emails. Getting ready for work is taking longer than expected.  You’re in your car thinking about what’s new in your inbox and what’s in store for you today. These are common moments in the daily life of busy professionals that could be filled with more meaningful or productive activities. Time is precious, at home and at work, and taking the time to stay on top of your personal communications and commitments may be time better spent doing other things. 

 

Microsoft AI has made great progress driving innovation for companies. And we are well on our way helping people change the world for Good. How can AI help people get time back in their day so they can focus on spending time with the people in their lives that matter most? AI in Microsoft 365 is leading the approach to put people at the center and use intelligent, personalized experiences to transform your productivity.

 

Today we are very excited to introduce Play My Emails in Outlook for iOS that utilizes Cortana, your personal productivity assistant, to catch up on what’s new in your inbox so you can get time back in your day. With an intelligent read out of your emails, natural language interaction with Cortana and a user interface designed for people on the move, you can stay organized, on top of what matters and get back to living life outside your inbox.

 

Outlook for iOS and Android is an integrated email and calendar app that now provides a unique way to interact with your inbox using AI with a personal assistant. This represents a significant shift in the way you manage your email and time commitments.  Outlook, together with Cortana and Microsoft 365 delivers innovation in your inbox with personalized productivity experiences. Play My Emails is the first Cortana feature to be an integral part of the Office 365 core experience. This means that it is the first Cortana-related capability where Cortana has met specific requirements set out in the Office 365 section of the Microsoft Trust Center and the Online Service Terms (OST).   

 

You can choose how you’d like to listen to your new emails with masculine and feminine voices for Cortana.  Play My Emails is rolling out with a new masculine voice option.

 

Play My Emails is starting to roll out today to customers in the United States in Outlook for iOS following later in Outlook for Android. So when you’re in transit, multi-tasking or driving to where you need to get to next, catch up and act on emails even when your hands are busy with other things. Check it out!

 

 

 

Now let’s dive into the details: 

 

Designed for mobile experiences

 

The new user experience is optimized for people on the move and ideal when connected to an audio device. Play My Emails has a simplified user experience with large visual assets and touch targets that provide context about your emails at a glance. You can use one finger to swipe to the next message or act on a message, or use voice commands for touch-free email triage. The experience provides images of the people who sent you the emails in a bright and bold way so you can quickly identify the sender, or don’t look at all – just listen! 

 

New user experience - Play My EmailsNew user experience - Play My Emails

 

Play my emails delivers a seamless experience with Bluetooth-enabled wireless or wired audio devices such as headphones or your car audio. When you reply and provide a quick response to an email, the mic on your phone is used. It’s helpful to know that the controls on headphones with playback options such as Forward or Back can also be used to skip to new messages in your inbox. The microphone on our iPhone will only engage when you say “Hey Cortana” during the playback of your emails and when Cortana finishes reading out an email and listens for voice commands. 

 

Following our initial launch of Play My Emails in Outlook for iOS, we plan to add functionality specifically designed for the new Surface Earbuds. In addition to the immersive sound offered by the Earbuds to listen to your emails, we’re bringing the software capabilities into Outlook to simplify the set up for Bluetooth Low Energy that offers increased battery life and enhanced voice input via the Surface Earbuds microphone.

 

Play My Emails - Designed for when you're on the movePlay My Emails - Designed for when you're on the move

 

Not just text-to-speech, it’s AI

 

What makes Play My Emails transformational is the intelligent technology that is used to read out your emails. Let’s watch this video so you can learn how Cortana personalizes the experience by keeping you in the center of the conversation.   

 

 

Play My Emails starts with a summary – how many emails are new in your Focused Inbox in the last 24 hours and are there changes to your day? It’s helpful to know out of the gate if you’ll have time to listen to all your new emails as Cortana estimates the time it will take to read them out to you.

 

Based on Outlook’s integrated Calendar, Cortana first reads out messages that help you stay organized such as updates to scheduled events. Perhaps more importantly, Cortana also identifies if you now have a conflict in your schedule due to the changes that may have just landed in your inbox.

 

Keeping you at the center of the experience means that Cortana knows where you are in time and relative to when your inbox was updated with each message. The readout does not just provide you with the email timestamp however.  Your personal assistant let’s you know how long ago, whether just a few minutes ago, about an hour ago, you received each email  “An hour ago, you received an email from…

 

With information from Microsoft Graph, Cortana identifies the sender of each email in relationship to you, such as your manager, or if was sent to a distribution list and how many people are included in the recipient list. You see, this experience is not just a readout of the text in your inbox, it about how the intelligent technology gives more context that is relevant to you. Cortana synthesizes the information in the message header and meta data and marries it with the insights about you and information from apps and services that power Office 365. This provides a more meaningful and contextual readout.

 

The Play My Emails experience is like having a conversation with your personal assistant. If you have a series of messages that are part of a conversation but arrive in your inbox at disparate times, Cortana stitches them together in a logical sequence and reads them out to you in a way that gives you the full context of the conversation in one connected experience. This helps you get caught up on the whole thread in a way that feels natural.  

 

And a conversation with your personal productivity assistant should be just that, a two way, private conversation. As mentioned, the microphone on your iPhone is only used when you’re using Play My Emails. You can say “Hey Cortana” to interrupt the readout and provide simple commands or reply to a message with a short, dictated response. 

 

 

Catch up with what's new in your inbox during your commuteCatch up with what's new in your inbox during your commute

 

You don’t need to lose time if the content of a message is full of graphical information, or is a long one and you don’t have time or the inclination to hear it out. Conversely, if emails contain information you should be aware of such as an attachment, links, embedded files or bulleted lists, Cortana will let you know which emails are  better read on a screen or you can chose to act on important ones straight away.  You can flag for later, skip or archive emails just like you can with your customizable swipe options in your Outlook inbox. Most of the swipe options available in Outlook for iOS Settings are supported and mirrored in the Play My Emails interface so swiping left or right to triage your email when using Play My Emails is consistent and takes advantage of your muscle memory.

 

In the beginning

 

The genesis for this capability came from the opportunity to explore how to design for things we cannot see. Microsoft embarked on a user-centric research project to find out what goes on behind the scenes for people who are sight impaired. Either figuratively or literally, how do you get oriented, through voice, when you might not have visual landmarks? So if you are visually impaired or even situationally blind, for example when you’re walking or driving or otherwise distracted, what is input is required to accomplish tasks such as reading your email. Through this research Microsoft learned the essence of what input or information is important to get to what is truly meaningful. This project involved volunteers from the school of the blind so we could learn the tactics when translating their needs to voice enabled capabilities. 

   

 

Play My Emails - when your eyes and hands may be busy with other thingsPlay My Emails - when your eyes and hands may be busy with other things

 

Outlook is all about helping you organize your life, stay in control of your day and on top of what matters. Using intelligent technology to get things done fast and with reduced the effort so you can get time back in your day and spend it with people that matter most to you. That includes getting time back when you need to stay on top of your personal communications and commitments. Cortana is your personal productivity assistant now built into Outlook. 

 

Play My Emails is starting to roll out today and may take several weeks to reach all US customers. Once it’s available to you, please share with us what you think. This is a significant step in our journey and we plan to bring more voice capabilities and enable deeper conversations between you and Outlook. Looking forward, we expect to expand specific time management scenarios, include more emails and enable additional actions in your conversations with Cortana. In the meantime, learn about other exciting Microsoft 365 AI innovations and other announcements we’re making at our Microsoft Ignite 2019 Outlook sessions.

 

As always, your continued feedback is so important and always appreciated.  Please keep telling us what you think through our in-app feedback or in our UserVoice channel

 

Frequently asked questions

  

  1. How do I start to use Play My Emails? 

If you’re connected to an audio device (wired or Bluetooth), select the  Play icon in the notification that appears at the bottom of the screen. Otherwise, open Outlook, swipe right from the left side of the screen to open the side menu, then select the  Play icon.  

  

  1. Which emails will Cortana read?

First, Cortana will read out any changes to your schedule that will occur over the next 24 hours. After that, it will read out the 30 most recent unread emails that you've received in the past 24 hours. For conversations within a single email thread, the oldest message will be read first. If you’ve enabled Focused Inbox, only emails in the Focused Inbox will be read. 

  

  1. Will my emails be marked as read after Cortana reads them out to me?

By default, emails are marked as read. You can use the voice command “Mark as unread” or use a custom swipe option to mark an individual message as unread.   

To customize how your messages are marked: 

1.  Open Outlook mobile Settings 

2.  Select Play My Emails

3.  Under Mark Emails As, select Unread or Read  

  

  1. What voice commands are supported with Play My Emails?

At the end of each message, Cortana listens for voice commands. Or, at any time, you can say “Hey Cortana” or tap the mic button and take following actions: 

Reply, Next, Previous, Skip, Pause, Resume, Archive, Flag this email, Unflag this email, Mark as read, Mark as unread, Delete, Exit, Send Feedback

  

  1. Can I reply to email messages?

Yes. By default, your response will be sent to all recipients of the email thread. If you only want to respond to the original sender, reply "No" when Cortana asks if you're ready to send your response. Cortana will then offer to reply only to the original sender. Cortana does not incorporate dictated punctuation into spoken messages.  

  

  1. What actions can I take by touching the screen? 

1. Tap the play/pause button, or the sender’s account photo, to pause or resume reading emails.

2. Swipe left for the next message or right for the previous one. 

3. Touch the microphone to invoke Cortana and provide a voice command.

4. The icons on the left and right of the play/pause button align with your custom swipe options configured in Outlook settings.  

  

  1. Can I use playback controls from my connected Bluetooth device? 

Some Bluetooth devices support the following controls:  Next or previous email, Pause or resume readout, Speak with Cortana, Volume control

  

  1. How do I stop seeing the Play My Emails notification when I open Outlook mobile?

You can temporarily dismiss the notification by selecting the Close button. You can also toggle it on or off in Settings:   

1. Open Outlook mobile Settings 

2. Select Play My Emails 

3. Turn the toggle on or off for each account  

 

  1. How do I adjust my steering wheel controls for my in-car Bluetooth audio system?

Open Outlook mobile Settings 

1. Select Play My Emails 

2. Go to Steering Wheel Controls

3. You can choose between Previous Email, Next Email, or Invoke Cortana 

 

  1. How do I change Cortana’svoice? 

Open Outlook mobile Settings 

1. Select Play My Emails 

2. Select Cortana’s Voice 

3. Select either Voice 1 – Feminine or Voice 2 - Masculine 

 

  1. How can I use Siri to launch Outlook for iOS and start Play My Emails?

You can ask Siri to launch Play My Emails witha Siri shortcut. 

1. Go to Outlook mobile Settings  

2. Select Siri Shortcuts 

3. Select Play My Emails

4. Tap the red button to record your Siri Shortcut

When you want to launch Play My Emails using your Siri Shortcut, invoke Siri and say the phrase you set up, such as, "Read my emails."

 

Siri is only able to launch the app and does not read or have access to your emails. Once Outlook for iOS is launched, it still requires authentication via your email address and password to start Play My Emails. 

 

  1. What does it mean when Cortana says “This is a long one” during email readout?

Cortana will preface email messages that take 30 seconds to one minute to read with, "It's a long one." If it will take more than one minute, Cortana will say, "It's a really long one." 

 

  1. Does Play My Emails work with CarPlay or Android Auto?

Play My Emails does not currently have specific support on CarPlay or Android Auto. However, much like any other audio app, basic playback controls (play, pause, previous, next) will show up on CarPlay when Play My Emails is in use on a connected iPhone.  

 

   14.  Can I change the speed Cortana reads my emails?

Speed changes are not currently an option in Play My Emails. 

 

   15. How is my Play My Emails data stored?

Cortana accesses the emails for playback from the Exchange server within your tenant. No new email data is saved during this process. A transcript of spoken commands (i.e. "mark as read," "next," "flag," etc.) may be retained in accordance with the Data Protection Terms in the Microsoft Online Services Terms. Customer data is used to develop and improve machine learning models, no human will be able to see the data.

 

   16.  What about protected emails?

Cortana will call out when an email is protected and briefly pause before reading the message so you can pause playback or skip to the next message. Similar to a private phone call, you should exercise caution when initiating playback in locations where confidential information could potentially be overheard. In these instances, it's recommended you wear headphones when using Play My Emails in Outlook for iOS.

 

41 Comments
Frequent Visitor

@Eugenie Burrage - this looks really cool!  Any word when it will be available for EDU accounts?  I see Play My Emails in my Outlook Mobile settings on my iPhone, but it says "Play My Emails does not currently support school accounts."  :sad:

Senior Member

@Eugenie Burrage nice tech - any ETA on when other regions might get to play with this?

I can imagine a even more advanced future version that uses the voice of your colleagues thanks to AI - emails from Bob are read with Bob's voice, emails from Jane are read with Jane's voice etc - certainly possible with deep fake voice technology even now...

New Contributor

@Eugenie Burrage - what version of Outlook for iOS does this get enabled with? 

When will it roll out in Europe?

Regular Visitor
looks great but my main use case would be in the car where I use CarPlay. I don't have the iPhone visible and navigate all from the car head unit so hopefully in the future there will be a dedicated CarPlay app rather than having to use the phone which im not going to be able to do driving
Regular Contributor

I'd also love to see some kind of CarPlay support.  I guess as long as there's a siri shortcut for 'play  my emails', that's good enough, but I'm sure there's further potential beyond that. 

Regular Visitor

Is anyone else having an issue where Play My Emails does not show up in Outlook settings on iOS? I uninstalled and reinstalled the app and it still does not show.  Several other employees have the option and are using it and several others do not have it all as an option and we are all in the same tenant.

New Contributor

! ! ! Wonderful ! ! !, Thank you for nice feature, Play My Email,
I hope to save the life from distracted driving.
and I hope to support PC, Android, and Japanese.

Occasional Visitor

I’m also having issues, it is not showing up on any of my iOS devices. I’m located in Seattle, WA, and I have both a home O365 account and a work one as well. How do I get the feature? My app has updated quite a few times since the announcement, but I’m still not seeing the “play my emails” option.

Contributor

Looks really cool. Looking forward to when this gets deployed to Android phones.

Senior Member

Still waiting on this feature.  ..... :(

Occasional Visitor

Fantastic development.  When will this be released in Australia?

 

Frequent Visitor

I've seen this in Outlook for iOS for some time now. However it only seems to work for my outlook.com personal Microsoft email account.

My business email account doesn't work. When I attempt to have it read me my work emails it says that I need to see my Office 365 Administrator (which is me). I can't find anything in the Admin controls that is off and preventing it from working. I confirmed that the Cortana Read My Emails setting in Admin Settings is checked and always has been.  :facepalm::cry: Please Cortana, for the love of God, read me my emails! :unamused:

Occasional Contributor

Incredible productivity enabler! Thank you for developing time-saving applications!

Senior Member

Still waiting on this to work for business email accounts. 

Microsoft

All, 

 

Thank you so much for your interest and questions.

 

@Peter Farrell  We are still working on getting this ready for EDU.  I don't have an estimate time yet however. 

 

@Craig Harris  @suewoodward We do not have an estimate at this time when we can roll it out to other regions.

 

@Sven Schmidberger  @zachflorio @ADiGiacomo @Mary Dixon At this time, we have rolled out Play My Emails to 50% of eligible customers, please be patient you should see it available in the coming weeks in you're a US based customer. 

 

@Steve Whitcher @timdeville  We are actively working on support for CarPlay and will let you know more as soon as we have an estimated time frame for release. 

 

@Rod Falanga We are actively working on Play My Emails in Outlook for Android and hope to release it some time this Spring. 

 

@Michael Fishweicher  Please take a screenshot of the error message and file a ticket from Settings/Support.  What you describe is not expected behavior -- perhaps your account is not eligible if it's EDU but we need more information to chase it down. 

 

Best,

 

Eugenie Burrage

Microsoft Product Marketing -- Outlook apps

 

 

Regular Visitor

Thank you very much for the update!

Contributor

Thank you, @Eugenie Burrage 

Contributor
Hi @Eugenie Burrage, We have started to notice on our iPhones the option and/or suggestion to use the Play my emails feature, but when we click on it, it does open and switch to the Outlook app, then nothing. I made sure users have some kind of headset or Bluetooth audio device connected, but it doesn't play. Just displays the Inbox. Is there any issues having multiple O365 accounts and personal accounts in Outlook? Have tested with different audio devices connected including my Surface headphone, but just can't seem to get it to work. Thanks, Alex
Occasional Visitor

Hi @Eugenie Burrage,

I have the same issue as @Alex Melching , I'm in Asutralia. So you know if the issue is because of the location? If so, is there a chance to be notified when it will be available for Australia?

Thanks

Contributor
Hello, Ours started working out of the blue. I guess the update finally hit our tenant. Note that if you have user lockbox enabled, you cannot use Play My Emails for Office 365 Work or School accounts until it is turned off. I turned off that feature and was just a matter of minutes I was able to select my work account for Play My Emails.
Regular Visitor

Ours too... I think some time last week it started working for many more of our phones.

New Contributor
Yup, it's on for me now too. Looking forward to testing it out!
Contributor

Wait a minute, @Alex Melching, are you saying that Play My Email is depending upon the tenant one has? I've got Office 365 Home Edition - not a corporate MS Exchange server in the background that I own and am paying for. So, does that mean I'll never get Play My Email?

Regular Visitor

@Eugenie Burrage 
thanks for the update.  We are on an edu tenancy too so will need to wait until it’s turned on for that.
any timeframe yet for edu? 

Contributor
@Rod Falanga As far as I am aware, Play My Emails is available for Outlook.com and Gmail accounts as I have the option to set it for those accounts. The settings for Play My Emails on my iOS device only allow it to connect to one account, but I have the option to enable it for my Outlook.com and GMail accounts. I have not see a service description for Play My Emails to see what is fully offered for what account types it supports.
Senior Member

Just checked and mine is still not available.  :(

Microsoft

Effective 2/25/2020, Play My Emails is available to all eligible accounts in the United States. I'm pleased to announce that we have also enabled customers in Education (EDU).

@Mary Dixon and @timdeville  please try again.  

@Alex Melching you're correct, Play My Emails in Outlook for iOS supports Outlook.com, Gmail and Exchange Online for work and school accounts.

@Rod Falanga this feature was not rolled out on a tenant by tenant basis but does require mailbox to be in the cloud. 

@KarinaAguirre  we do not yet have an estimate of when Play My Emails will be available for customers outside the United States.

 

Please keep your feedback coming.  

 

Eugenie Burrage

Senior Member

@Eugenie Burrage   It still says it isn't supported for this account. 

Occasional Visitor

@Eugenie Burrage 

Why does Play My Email don't work while customer lockbox is enabled? I need to understand why as we need both feature to be working. Thank you!

New Contributor

I have couple of queries here.

1- is Cortana feature not supported? 

2- Play my emails features is not working for different countries other than US

3- is Play my emails feature applicable only for iOS and Android phone?? Thanks

Occasional Visitor

Looks like a great feature.  I use the Read Aloud feature daily on the desktop so it would be great to have similar functionality on the mobile app.

 

Any feedback on when this will be available in the UK would be much appreciated? 

 

thanks!

Occasional Visitor

Hi @Eugenie Burrage  - When will this feature be available in Canada? Are there any settings that need to be configured on my phone?
I see a shortcut to “Play my emails” but when I click it, I only see my outlook inbox and nothing happens.

Occasional Visitor

I have been in USA for 20 years and active user of hotmail. However for play my email it’s not available since my account is not US based. how can I change my account to US based?

Senior Member

In order to make this work on the Enterprise side of  Outlook. I need to keep customer LockBox opened up indefinitely! Is there a better way to achieve this?

Contributor

Hi @Alex Melching , thank you for your response. And please forgive me for being over 2 months late in replying!

 

What you said, back on 2/26/2020, really encourages me. So, is the enabling of Play My Emails something that I do on an account-by-account basis? I have an Outlook.com account, which I'd really love to get  Play My Emails going on. I've just been spending time in Outlook on my Android phone; nothing stood out to me. I do have two email Outlook.com accounts, so given what you said I can see Play My Email can only be enabled for one of them. That's fine, I'd just like to get it going. :smile:

Regular Visitor

@Eugenie Burrage This has been great feature, however the "Flag Email" stopped working, both on voice command and the on-sceen button.  How do I get this issue fixed?

Visitor

@Eugenie Burrage Our users see the following message when they select Play My Emails in Outlook mobile app "Your admin settings block this feature for encryption enabled mailboxes". Is this block enforced in Exchange Online or have I missed something in Intune?

Occasional Contributor

Hi dears, 
When can we expect this to be deployed for Europe? Is this even in the roadmap?

I'm planning to rollout Outlook for my users instead of the native iOS mailbox but I need to know what they will get exactly with it.

Regular Visitor

I echo the comments above, when is this feature likely to hit the UK, similarly the Cortana experience on W10 is woeful because of regional availability.  I am guessing it is something to do with GDPR?

 

Regards


Kerry  

 

 

Occasional Visitor

maybe I will need to see it work