Siri, Cortana, Alexa, GoogleNow: Who gets the job?

digital assistant

Most people don’t have the luxury of hiring a personal assistant. But thanks to developments in speech recognition and machine learning technologies; everyone has access to voice-activated companions who manage their day-to-day tasks. In fact, according to SMH, the digital assistant market is expected to grow to $15.6 billion by 2024; and the four tech giants (Apple, Microsoft, Google, and Amazon) are all looking to grab the largest piece of the pie.

Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, Amazon’s Alexa, and Google Assistant have amazing features and use super hi-tech software integrations to make your life easier. But like any hired help, each of them have different strengths and weaknesses.

To find out how they compare; we threw each assistant a series of commands, from general search queries to scheduling tasks, and rated their performance. Here are our findings.

Siri

Siri is the longest-serving assistant who started the digital assistant craze after being acquired by Apple in 2010. She made her iOS debut in iPhone 4S; and was introduced as an intelligent assistant that helps you get things done just by asking.

When we put her to the test, Siri had no trouble scheduling appointments in Calendar or providing clear directions to a nearby restaurant. After we requested a lift, she gave us transportation options for Uber or a taxi service, and allowed us to confirm each transaction with voice.

What sets Siri apart from other assistants is her ability to manage text messages and emails. Simply saying “send message/email to [John Smith]” prompts her to transcribe whatever you say and pass the message along once you’ve approved it. She can even sift through your inbox and list unread emails if you ask, “Do I have any new emails?”

In terms of her search capabilities, there’s room for improvement. She can answer general questions with ease via Bing; but when asked more nuanced questions like “Who won the 2016 State of Origin Series?” she could only provide a list of websites that are loosely related to the question.

Alas the lack of integration with other services prevents Siri from doing more. In short, Apple needs a lot of work with third-party compatibility if they want Siri to be the clear winner.

Google Assistant

Compared to Siri, Google Assistant is relatively new; and it already packs quite a punch. Google Assistant has tight integrations with other Google services; so if you depend on Gmail, Maps, and Search for your day-to-day tasks, this assistant will better suit your needs.

Ask to see “photos of Australia Day,” for example, and Google Assistant shows you pictures you took during the event (provided you have some stored in Google Photos) as well as results from the web. When we asked Google for directions to a client’s office, not only did Google Maps provide directions, it also estimated the travel time for different modes of transportation and suggested a route with the least amount of traffic.

It’s also no surprise that Google Assistant’s greatest strength is providing information to a wide assortment of questions. Like the search engine, Assistant produces accurate results and anticipates what you’re looking for. If you ask to “Book a flight to Canberra”, Google will list flight times, display prices, and allow you to book a flight right there and then. All in all, Google Assistant feels like a more complete helper than its competitors, and we believe it will only become stronger as the tech giant gradually improves it.

Cortana

Microsoft’s Cortana has taken control of the search function in Windows 10 devices, accepting both typed and spoken commands. Much like Google Assistant, Cortana integrates with a variety of companion products to help users complete a variety of tasks.

With help from Microsoft Bing, she can perform Siri-like functions such as displaying weather forecasts, identifying music, and answering general questions. With Office 365, Cortana can manage to-do lists, provide information about the partners you’re meeting with, and schedule appointments. But what impressed us most was Cortana’s instant translation capabilities. We asked her to translate a few phrases in Spanish and Italian, and she responded as if she were a native speaker.

However, Cortana has her weaknesses. When her search functions work, it feels like she’s a perfectly viable digital assistant; but she often fails to produce the precise results that Google does. She also has a tendency to accomplish most commands by displaying web results from Bing, which isn’t ideal since it’s not helping you cut down time-consuming tasks. Given another year of new features, Cortana could be the go-to assistant for Microsoft users, but right now, it takes a back seat to Siri and Google.

Alexa

Amazon’s Alexa is a bit different from the rest because she typically runs on the Amazon Echo speaker. This audio-only assistant can be placed in the middle of the room and take requests whenever her name is spoken.

For the most part, she excels at simple tasks like providing weather forecasts and reading the top news stories, but where she truly shines is with third-party integrations. When plugged into your Amazon account, you can ask Alexa to order a specific item. When connected to music streaming services like Spotify, she can play any song requests you shout across the room.

Although Alexa is an impressive virtual aide, Amazon is building her as more of a “bot for the home” type of assistant, so you might find very little practical use for her in the office. And if you put her up against Google Assistant, her capabilities pale in comparison.

Who’s hired?

While none of the four digital assistants completely decimated the competition; if we had to pick; Siri and Google Assistant were the best with Cortana expected to close the gap shortly.

And since Google Assistant is standing on an already powerful platform of popular services; it handled requests smoothly, accurately, and efficiently. Going forward, we expect that Google will widen its lead and become the go-to personal assistant for professionals and consumer users alike.

If you’re having trouble deciding which technology is right for your business; consult with the team at Empower for all your IT queries. We will understand your requirements and recommend top-notch solutions that will make your life a whole lot easier.