Rolling the wheel down the cave to talking to things that aren’t alive, the human race has gone a long way to creating a world that’s as intelligent as himself.
Creating interfaces that talk to us like our hairdresser or a personal assistant is as giant a leap as we took on the moon. Here is a peek into how many of these friends we have out there and what are they specialized in.
8th May 2018 “Google just gave a stunning demo of Assistant making an actual phone call” The world started in amazement as Sundar Pichai talked to Google Duplex to fix a hairdresser’s appointment and the later talked so much like your neighbourhood aunty with super casual “hmmmm”s in the conversation.
Siri’s famous casual joke about “hide the body under the bridge” and Alexa switching off your light bulbs when you’re sleepy has taken the world on a new wave of scientific revolution. Humans, being humans, have scuttled their way from wheels to steam engines but creating replicas of their own behaviour is stepping in a different league altogether.
With the rise of these AI assistants, the world is stepping into a different era where every passing day is making human lives more and more comfortable. AI has revolutionized the way problems are approached - climate change, discovering black holes, creating models, weaponry, defence, finding space debris and whatnot. However, AI’s influence on human assistants has gone beyond that- It has changed the way we live, behave and even think of the world around us.
These fertile grounds have led to a cut-throat competition among the multi-million tech firms, each with a dedicated AI team willing to go to any extent to create as much humane experience for the users as possible. From asking them to call John to talking about your feelings with them, these are the areas where Siri, Cortana, Google Assistant, and Alexa are different.
Does it run on your phone, pc and watch?
Accessibility is a major area over which experts grade and rank the AI assistants. If you can ask her to turn your fan off from your watch without having to unlock your phone and can manage to be 5% lazier, she deserves a bonus point.
Google Assistant: This can be used on all Android, iOS devices as well as Chromebooks. Google can connect to a range of third party Google AI enabled speakers.
Cortana: This AI of Microsoft comes standard on all the Windows appliances but can also be downloaded on Android and iOS. Cortana has a limited number of third party speaker models on which it is available and it is still not sure if Cortana will be compatible with them anytime soon. After having announced it’s integration with Amazon Alexa, there is a chance for Cortana to rise soon.
Alexa: Amazon’s AI assistant, Alexa works in perfect blend with a range of Amazon speakers and this makes it one of the most widely accessible AI assistants in terms of design. There is an Alexa app as well, but the app is intended primarily as a supplement to another Alexa device and not as a stand-alone AI assistant.
Siri: Siri can be accessed on any of the Apple devices, from laptops, desktops, phones, tablets, and smartwatches. It works in perfect synchronization with HomePod and Sonos is also on the way of releasing high-end home speakers, claims it will roll out a software update in July that will allow users to access Siri (in addition to Alexa and Google Assistant)
How intelligent should you be to use intelligent assistants?
The time you take to get yourself familiarised with the AI and its compatibility to adapt to your individual custom needs play a major role in determining if it’s gonna be on your top list.
Google Assistant, Siri and Alexa: These friends require virtually no setup time after you sign in and connect to the network. None of these three took more than about 45 seconds for initial access, and that included turning the device on or, in Alexa’s case, plugging it in.
Cortana: If someone wants to access the voice features of Cortana, you must access it on your device and then login – oh, and you can’t use a work or school email address for the login. Once you enter an acceptable email account, wait for a verification code and enter the code, you think you’re in business, but you’re not. Your phone number login doesn’t really work and neither do non-work and non-school email address.
How well do they understand you?
If you’re asking your assistant to dial a number to Tom and it chooses your mom on the dial, it would definitely not be something our ranking should be okay with. We can distinguish between these interfaces by their decipheration of what exactly you were telling it and if it’s able to make distinctions like ‘for’ and ‘four’.
Google Assistant and Siri: They’re probably on the top when it comes to recognizing what you’re actually trying to ask it to do. They’re both, however, not very good at following you during long one-sided instructions like dictation and you might need to go high volume for your interface to get you.
Alexa: If there’s music playing in the background, there is a high chance that Alexa won’t get what you’re trying to tell her. She’s also not as good as Siri or Google Assistant in silence.
Cortana: Microsoft’s assistant had issues understanding me even with zero noise interference and at a slow pace and was struggling to get basic tasks through like ‘I want to set a reminder’
How well can you get my work done?
Cortana: Cortana isn’t the best performing interface of these, having failed to show the distance between your location and the airport or convert dollar to yen.
Alexa: Alexa worked well when answering basic questions, especially those that pertained to purchasing items on Amazon and setting reminders. It isn’t really good when it comes to tasks that require more context and tiny details. It also struggles with follow up questions with a polite “Sorry, I don’t know that”. Where Alexa is good at doing parts of tasks, it has a hard time getting through all of it. It could, for instance, tell you where the closest Applebee’s was, but it couldn’t make a reservation. These things make Alexa a suitable tool for ordering on Amazon but isn’t the best AI for natural language use.
Google Assistant and Siri: These two are close competitors when it comes to understanding you and following through your instructions well. If you’d ask the directions to a landmark, both of them will show you clear driving instructions. However if you prompt them both to guide you through public transport means to get there, Siri will falter.
Siri, however, is particularly good at finding proximal destinations you need like the restaurants and theaters. New to town or need an assistant to make these bookings for you? Siri is your go-to person. However, it might not help you if your instructions are too specific, “Where can I find fries now?” There is a long way to go and the race to create gadgets that are more like us has just began.
The movie ‘Her’s portrayal of AI assistants you can talk to about your emotions and bond over as a friend might just be around the next turn of the road.