Voice Assistants: Who, What and How
Long-time iPhone users are quick to ask Siri all sorts of questions, but they’re not the only users with this option. In fact, Windows Phone’s Cortana has made headlines by correctly predicting every single winner of the world cup while even BlackBerry has recently announced a voice assistant for the three people who actually still use a BlackBerry device that’s capable of using it. Here’s what you need to know about these functions.
- Siri — iOS
Apple has put a lot of advertising money to get the word out about Siri, which was the first voice assistant to work really well. Even Samuel L Jackson appeared in the TV spots, which featured Siri answering questions about scheduled events and the weather in addition to playing music for a party. Apple worked had to ensure that Siri would be able to ask questions in the way that people actually ask them, which made Siri less awkward to use a couple years ago. However, she’s far from the only competition in 2014.
- Google Now — Android, Chrome
A whole slew of devices that received the upgrade to Android 4.4.2, also known as KitKat, now have the newest version of Google Now. Google Now replaces Google Search, which was once just a homepage widget. Google Now is an entire app, and while users could access it before, improved voice commands enable you to ask questions with a simple “OK, Google” from any screen, even when you’re not in the app. Google Now responds to semantic questions such as “What’s the weather like?” The voice assistant, which is available on Android devices and in the Chrome browser on other devices, also uses your Google history to provide more relevant answers. Google Now in Kitkat is capable of doing anything Siri can do, from sending a text message to setting an alarm. Google Now often responds on-screen rather than audibly.
- Cortana — Windows Phone
Windows Phone users can tap and hold the “Search” button to activate Microsoft’s personal assistant. Cortana’s settings are similar to Google Now, and you can provide information to get more specific results. For example, you can specify an “Inner Circle,” contacts who can get through when when you have Quiet Mode enabled, and your favorite places. Windows Phone users can look up information from the Web, send messages or initiate phone calls through Cortana. “This virtual assistant sounds more computer-like than Siri, but Cortana gets the job done,” says Jason Hope about Cortana.
- BlackBerry Assistant — BlackBerry
The Canadian company minced no words when naming its upcoming voice assistance. That’s right, BB users currently have no option, but that’s set to change with the 10.3 update to the smartphone’s operating system. Little is known about this personal assistant, including when it will be available and how it will stack up against the competition. Some functions mentioned include the ability to read back emails and turn on/off the phone’s flashlight. We do know that BlackBerry intends to release a new phone named Passport with BlackBerry Assistant, however.