Google and Apple prep for battle over voice-controlled personal assistants

December 26, 2013
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Now that Android and iOS are practically established as the top two mobile platforms in the world, tech rivals Google and Apple are gearing up for their next battle. This time the race will not be about operating systems or mobile devices but about which will have the best virtual personal assistant available.

Apple probably has a head start with Siri being a more popular name and one that is immediately associated with a voice-controlled personal assistant. But the Cupertino-based company is probably aware of some limitations in Siri's capabilities, leading it to acquire Topsy, a startup that has created software to analyze Twitter posts. Apple isn't obviously after people's tweets. Instead, it is more interested in the natural language technology created by Topsy to improve how Siri understands what people tell it, or her, before handing over what is needed for other apps and services to do their work.

But Google's Scott Huffman believes that Google has a huge advantage in this field. Its experience in the search business allows it to return search results that are most relevant, allowing the system to differentiate idioms and popular phrases from actual queries. Google also boasts of having more information about a user's life at its disposal, enabling it to present information that is timely and relevant to a user's location by scouring his or her email and calendar for clues.

The current challenge for Google is to acclimate its large userbase, who are most likely more accustomed to typing out search queries, to actually use its personal assistant services in a more natural way. On one hand, Google tries to actually remove even the need to do so explicitly by giving users customized information via Google Now, predicting the user's needs. On the other hand, Google is also introducing new features and technology, among them Google Glass, that will encourage, if not almost force, users to speak out their queries instead of typing them.

But Google knows more than anyone how algorithms are no longer enough to provide the best results. It has recently employed human minds and hands to better ensure that Google Now is able to give the best single answer instead of laying out a list of possible results. It hopes that this shift in mindset will bring it closer to its dream of a personal assistant that behaves pretty much like the computers in Star Trek.

SOURCE: Telegraph


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  • None ya

    Hey google, want to make it more popular? Stop calling all you stuff “google” this or that! Siri would be dumb if it was called apple now. Come up with a better name……..google now, that’s just stupid.

    • MERKJONES

      You mean like how Apple does: iOS, iTunes, iMovie…? Toplel

      • None ya

        Yes, just like that. I am suprized they didn’t name Siri, Isiri.

    • maysider

      “Hangouts” is also stupid
      Google should use common words to adopt the services more in a more convenient way
      Hangouts= video chat
      Google now= information centre
      Google plus= sharing center

      there is too many services to learn and make popular every stupid name (hangouts, now, plus…..what the hell is it???)

  • Treycent

    For content that’s password-protected or behind corporate firewalls or very specific to an individual or group, you need a different approach like Treycent’s mobile app. It lets you link spoken questions or phrases to *any URL* allowing you to, in effect, create your own Siri. So you could say “Show me John’s latest photos” and have it load your friend John’s Instrgram feed. Or “Email my team” and have it load a Gmail page to compose an email with the “To” line containing the email addresses of your team members. Link to any web page: YouTube videos, SharePoint documents, Salesforce reports, wiki pages, etc.

  • Christopher Williamson

    I have to say – I’m a die-hard Android fan and I see many obvious reasons why Android is better than iOS but even I have to confess – Google Now just sucks next to Siri. It’s fine for road traffic reports on-the-fly but for any query you give it – it’s just garbage!

    The reason Siri is so much better is because it fetches answers to many of the questions asked to it from Wolfram Alpha. If I ask a question to a ‘virtual assistant’ I want the answer – not a 50,000 page list of search results. I also want that answer read out loud to me else what’s the point?

    The idea is – if I ask a direct question with only one available response – research results are not necessary – you just haven’t bothered to figure out which is the answer and tell me it – Wolfram Alpha does this for Siri – get cracking Google. You have a LONG way to go.