Over the past few years there has been a big upsurge in AI Digital Assistants on smartphones and other devices. We’re talking about Cortana, Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant and more. The future looks bright for these types of useful assistants, there will be others coming out with upgraded features and improved technology but which are the best to use in everyday life? What are the benefits to each? What are the disadvantages? We explore the most popular AI Digital Assistants to find out which are best and why.
Apple introduced Siri in 2011 on the iPhone 4S. It was the first ever AI Digital Assistant that worked using voice on a smartphone. At first, it was fairly basic but with every new generation iPhone it has improved and grown to be a useful tool. It’s only available on Apple smartphones but it can also be used on macOS too.
Siri answers general questions that it can quickly search on the web. It’s not designed for personal questions or even very specific questions and that’s because Apple place high importance on user privacy. Unlike Google, you won’t find Apple collecting information from personal emails.
Siri is excellent for general queries, for example, wanting to know what the weather forecast for your area is or perhaps what’s on at the local cinema – even finding places to eat, local entertainment and shopping. It’s easy to use via voice control (it memorises your voice) and there’s no need to type in your questions. Some might find this a weakness however most of the time, as long as Siri understands your voice, it isn’t an inconvenience.
The biggest weakness with Siri is it can’t be used with any devices or apps that aren’t made by Apple. However, this is changing although not imminent; the belief is it will eventually work with other devices (although there is no set timescale for this). The other small disadvantage is that it doesn’t cope with slang or non-dictionary terms. Other than that, it deals with almost any query and there are lots of excellent features.
Siri is still a huge favourite with many people and is the most accessible assistant as it’s available on all up-to-date iPhones. It’s definitely a useful AI Digital Assistant but we look forward to when it is made available to other devices not made by Apple.
Google Assistant for handsets is newer than Siri only launching this year (originally it was exclusive to Pixel) and it certainly looks like it is the future of AI Digital Assistants. One of the biggest benefits to Google Assistant is that it links with all the other Google services. This means if you prefer to use Google’s entire interface it could be more useful to you. You can easily ask it questions, for example, best restaurants in your locality or in a certain postcode and it will deliver a variety of options. As Siri, Google Assistant can answer many questions without hesitation, the weather forecast, new movies, entertainment locally and more. It’s also exceptionally useful with distances as it integrates with Google Maps so can give you an accurate timescale for a journey.
What we also like about Google Assistant is it has the added bonus of being able to respond to follow-up questions. This means you can narrow down results, for example, if you want to know what sporting events are on in your area it will display everything available. Then you might want to narrow it down to your favoured sport and Google Assistant will then provide you with what you need. Finally, it integrates with Gmail so it can display information such as travel itineraries, hotel bookings and flight bookings for example.
Google Assistant is definitely growing in popularity and becoming more intelligent as it develops. It’s not 100% perfect yet but the benefits of being able to use natural language and ability to integrate with other Google products are superb.
This AI Digital Assistant belongs to Windows 10 and is also available through Android and IOS apps which is useful if you use all of the above. As Siri, it’s useful for common questions about what’s going on in your local area, restaurant guides, travel queries and the weather but it is does not work quite as well as Google Assistant and Siri with up-to-date results and needs some fine-tuning. However, one of the advantages is that it is also available to use on a desktop and it is excellent at giving you reminders and organising lists (which is always useful if you need a nudge to remember something important!). This is a huge benefit as the other assistants don’t do this yet.
Once Cortana manages to be 100% up to date with its results it will be one of the very best AI Digital Assistants available on the marketplace today.
This AI Digital Assistant comes in the form of a speaker and doesn’t work with some phones and devices yet although going forward, the intention is that it will be integrated on all. There is a mobile app to use alongside it, which is beneficial.
We are particularly impressed that Alexa can actually do some work for you, for example, it can order items from Amazon, order take-away food, book a taxi and it can play your music on request. There’s lots more it can do too, it can answer weather related questions, advise on movie showings and give you restaurant suggestions to name a few.
It is ahead of many AI Digital Assistants but it does lack some core specifics that Google Assistant and Siri can deal with easily. It’s also only usable by voice so you can’t see your information on screen, relying on it to read things out loud.
Amazon is planning to improve Alexa’s features so it will be in line and even better than the others mentioned – it’s a safe bet if you want a quality assistant but Amazon need to roll it out to tablets and smartphones fast to compete.