The rise of virtual assistants

October 16, 2015 by

Facebook recently launched their virtual assistant “M”, which is only available in San Francisco. This move brings the competition to Microsoft’s Cortana, Apple’s Siri, Baidu’s Duer, Amazon’s Alexa and Google Now. It’s funny that Google’s assistant doesn’t have a human-like name. In a world where devices and information are becoming the center of all interactions, it makes total sense for companies to reach customers in more human ways. Here’s my experience trying to communicate with some of these virtual assistants:

Siri: I have used iPhones since 2007 and when Siri came out I was super excited, but that excitement was quickly shattered by the bad experience. In full disclosure, English is not my mother tongue and my very thick accent was my initial excuse for the bad experience. However, after several years of trying and multiple updates from Apple the experience has only improved to mediocre. I’m not a big fan of someone that suggests a famous Chinese writer when I am trying to find the closest bakery.

Alexa: I have only used the Fire TV voice search which doesn’t have the full functionality of Alexa. I was impressed by her accuracy, all my queries yield the correct result and that was pleasant. At some point, I actually thought that my accent was magically gone. However, to be fair I was not using the full functionality of Alexa but only searching on a contained collection of movie titles.

Cortana: I’ve used this one for couple of months. The best thing about it is the ability to use it both on your mobile device and your laptop – This might apply to Google and Apple if you only use their OS and devices. The voice recognition was not that good at the beginning but rapidly evolved into a very reliable way of search things in both my devices and the web.

It seems like the success of virtual assistants will rest on their ability to adapt and learn from our requests and interactions to provide accurate results. This sounds very similar to what we do at 2A. Are virtual assistants trying to take over?