Tech29.05.2018

Hey, Future

What is the difference between The big 4 in the world of virtual assistants: Cortana, Alexa, Siri & Google Assistant

Biliana Konstantinova Biliana Konstantinova
+4 imagesHey, Future

A total of 31% of global smartphone owners were reported to use voice tech at least once a week in 2017. These are the results of a global research by Statista about the frequency with which smartphone owners use voice-enabled technology worldwide. It is not a surprise that virtual assistants are more popular in the USA as new features are tested first in English on the American market. Perhaps this is the reason why analyzers point out that the segment is growing slower than expected.

Even those partial to new technologies will admit that AI is a part of our present – we carry it in our pockets and address it by name – Siri, Google, Cortana, Alexa.

The tough competition between tech companies ends up giving new and bigger opportunities for users – let’s examine.

 

Hey, Cortana!

Cortana is Microsoft’s virtual assistant, based on AI. It is integrated in all Windows 10 devices. iOS and Android devices also support it. Of course, it offers more functionalities to those with Windows.  

Cortana recognizes natural human speech and answers your questions using the information from Bing (weather forecast, traffic, sports results, information about celebrities, everyday life facts).

It also helps plan meetings, set up a user’s personal calendar and can send a message to a contact of yours. You can ask for recommendations about routes, restaurants or a movie.

This voice assistant translates words and phrases in 40 languages, including Bulgarian. Last Autumn Cortana was integrated in Skype thus offering users

in-context assistance during their chats,

as well as the option to message Cortana directly to ask questions or get help with a number of other tasks.  She even predicts the results of tonight’s game.

Cortana collects personal data and syncs it among all user’s Windows devices. It is developed to be intuitive, which means that the more you use it, the more it gets to know you and the more it predicts what you need in every moment.

All this sounds great, but there is one small detail – Cortana is

available in very few regions

and in limited languages. Only users in USA, Australia, China, Japan, India, Canada, Brazil, Mexico, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Great Britain can take advantage of it. The supported languages are English, Portuguese, French, Chinese, German, Italian, Japanese, and Spanish.

Its creators promise more countries and languages are coming soon.

 

Alexa!

Imagine you get back home in the evening, your hands occupied by heavy shopping bags. Instead of leaving everything on the floor to look for the light switch, you just say “Alexa, turn on the lights!” and.. they do. This is Alexa -- Amazon’s cloud-based voice service, integrated in Echo, Dot and Tap products.

Alexa is the most popular last generation virtual assistant. Its reach is due to Amazon’s decision to open the platform for third-party developers. Thanks to that it

now supports more than 40,000 skills

developed by third-party vendors. Moreover, in contrast to Cortana, Amazon’s assistant is available in more countries, including Bulgaria. The problem is that Alexa “speaks” only English, German and Japanese.

Apart from the most common tasks (voice interaction, music playback, making to-do lists, setting alarms, streaming podcasts, playing audiobooks, and providing weather, traffic, sports, and other real-time information) Alexa can also control several smart devices using itself as

a home automation system.

You can even manage different groups of devices or your whole home using just one word. All this without being dependable on your smartphone. Thanks to the far-field microphones it can hear you from every corner of the room.  

Alexa’s main disadvantage is that you can’t really talk with it. Amazon’s ambition is that one day users are able not only to address tasks to Alexa but to also chat with it for 20 minutes.

 

OK, Google!

The shortest description for Google’s virtual assistant is that with its help “you can find info and get things done” – you can ask it questions and tell it to do things. Google Assistant is integrated in Android smartphones and tablets and in Google Home. It is also available on iOS devices. On Android phones and tablets, the Google Assistant operates in English, French, German, Hindi, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, and Spanish.

There is no problem using it in Bulgaria, you just have to talk with it in English.

Google officially announced that before the end of 2018

the voice assistant will be able to speak 30 languages,

including several Chinese dialects. Thus, it’ll be able to reach 95 % of all eligible Android devices worldwide.

Google Assistant’s success is due to the fact that it uses all resources and features of the most popular search engine. You can ask it about any kind of information you want – weather forecast, the working hours of an institution you need to visit, a route to get there, plan your day and manage your calendar, it can make a reservation for you, call/text a friend for you. You can use it to manage your smartphone and your smart home. 

You can create your own commands for your Google Assistant using the IFTTT (If this, then that) platform. For example, if you say: “Tell my friends I'm going sailing," then a status update is posted to your Facebook account. If you aren’t sure of Google Assistant’s capabilities, you can just ask it. The most interesting part is that you can talk with it (almost) like a human being –

it can tell a joke,

you can play together or you can ask it questions to get to know it better – why not try asking about its dreams and favorite color?.

 

Hey, Siri!

Siri is Apple’s voice assistant, but it is available only on iOS devices.

All functions it supports are managed by natural voice commands. The common and obligatory for this kind capabilities aside (phone calls, text messages, opening apps, calendar management, providing information requested, navigating, making reservations, etc.) Siri supports all iOS-integrated apps and can search for books in iBooks, music, films and TV shows in iTunes, songs recognition via Shazam and etc.

There’s a driver mode,

(through CarPlay) which supports executing tasks on the smartphone without having to take your eyes off the road.

Siri is able to handle follow-up questions and support language translation but from English only to French, German, Spanish, Italian and Chinese.

After last year’s iOS update Siri now connects consecutive sentences. This means that if you ask who Madonna is and follow up with an inquiry about her age, the assistant will realize that you’re referring to the same singer and will provide the necessary information. The “Type to Siri” function allows you to type your question when it is too noisy around and the assistant may not recognize your voice or you want to ask something in a discreet way.

Siri constantly collects information about you

and your used habits from the websites you use, the music you listen to, the usual time you go to bed or wake up, so it can improve and make better suggestions about what you need in this particular moment.

 

In conclusion, there shouldn’t be doubts that future is already here in our arms. But that is not all. The most certain prediction based on the high-speed tech innovations is that the best is yet to come.

 






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