Every April, organizations big and small all over celebrate Administrative Assistants Day as a show of gratitude for the staff that carries out the day-to-day administrative operations. These are the individuals that make sure communications reach the proper contacts, that calendars are maintained, and appointments are kept. Good administrative assistants are indispensable to an enterprise, and truly deserve recognition more than one dayLearn More About Blue Star's IT Services
There’s Siri, Google Assistant, and Alexa. Each virtual assistant comes equipped with a rich package of features and capabilities, but who is the best in the business?
Every April, organizations big and small all over celebrate Administrative Assistants Day as a show of gratitude for the staff that carries out the day-to-day administrative operations. These are the individuals that make sure communications reach the proper contacts, that calendars are maintained, and appointments are kept. Good administrative assistants are indispensable to an enterprise, and truly deserve recognition more than one day each year.
The job of an administrative assistant — or any assistant — is to support the position they assist; Sounds simple enough, right? Wrong. Typing, faxing, emailing, answering calls, scheduling appointments, and all duties that fall under this umbrella require great organization and attention to detail. Duties don’t always stay within the 8-5 workday, and responsiveness is key.
When the Palm Pilot launched as one of the earlier electronic mobile devices for mobile communication with features for schedules and task organization, followed by BlackBerry models, and then the iPod Touch among many others, artificial intelligence emerged as an economical option and valuable tool for consumers. These devices at the time were just an extension of administrative assistants, though.
Enter the virtual assistant. Artificial intelligence (AI) has truly enabled technology to support human activity. From machines helping build machines — think automobile manufacturing lines — to machines helping people fix people — think 3D printers creating a replica of a heart or other organ to assist surgeons in planning an operation — the common thread is that artificial intelligence enables us to improve the world through the use of machines. Do you wear a Fitbit or another activity tracker? From counting your steps to telling time to monitor your heart rate to tracking your exercise route with built-in GPS capabilities, the little machine on your wrist is pretty incredible. Virtual assistants offer support on a basic level, but with more sophisticated capabilities, like voice-enabled operations and support.
Apple launched Siri, the built-in intelligent personal assistant, in 2011. Siri was designed to answer questions and perform basic actions using Apple apps on the iPhone. Apple worked with voice actors from British, Australian, and American backgrounds to offer support in native “accents” given the global use of Apple products.
Amazon’s Alexa followed in 2014 and has since become a household name, bolstering an AI competition that is most beneficial to the consumer. A common misperception is that Amazon’s Alexa is tethered to devices used only in a home, enabling home automation services. Alexa is designed to work with several Acer, Lenovo, and HP desktop and laptop computers, as well as the Fire tablet line-up and a handful of mobile devices – though none carry the mobile market presence as the iPhone.
Each of the virtual assistants offers an assortment of the same type of features: set alarms, provide weather reports, sports scores, Internet search results, and other real-time options like news, driving directions, and traffic alerts. But with so many AI virtual assistants on the market and consumers have more options, which brings the most bang for the buck? Which offers the most robust features? Which has the coolest capabilities? We break down the “Big Three” and let you decide.
Siri was the first and is thereby the model for all others that come after. Siri was the first voice-activated, voice-controlled virtual assistant, and dominated the market for three years before her first true competitor came along. With a quick “Hey, Siri!”, she was eager and waiting to help you out! Siri’s user interface was pretty basic initially, but considering the innovative concept of a responsive virtual assistant in your pocket, consumers were happy with basic. Siri has evolved into a much more robust and astute virtual assistant, though she still prefers to look things up on the Internet and just give you her search results. This is reported because of Apple’s dedication to user privacy, and a commitment to not collecting data from browser history or emails – like Google does – for Internet search results.
Siri’s lack of integration with non-native apps is rather frustrating. Some partner apps will offer more complex functionality, but with most apps, users are limited to basic “open” commands and exclude secondary commands – think “open Facebook and create new status update” or something along those lines. It’s not rocket science, but it’s not something Siri can help you with – yet.
Amazon’s Alexa is the exception to the rule in more than one way. Unique to the virtual assistant market, Alexa is standard on Amazon Echo devices – which are not smartphones but rather designed to primarily support home automation. This is rather genius in that Alexa supports orders and shopping through a user’s Amazon account with stored payment and shipping details, conveniently offering a built-in way for Amazon to monetize their virtual assistant.
Alexa is an audio-only voice-activated AI virtual assistant. She has to read all results out loud to you – but more importantly, interact directly with you. She is the foundation of a smart home rather than confined to a smartphone.
Alexa is also designed to work with third-party apps. Want to play a Spotify playlist? Alexa’s got you covered. Need a ride? Alexa can now order you an Uber. Alexa can help you order dinner due to integration with Pizza Hut and Domino’s, among others. Alexa will also get you in (quick) shape — body or mind — with a daily 7-minute workout and a Jeopardy game.
The newest of the three, Google Assistant launched in 2016 as a part of Google’s messaging app, Allo. Built as a virtual assistant to replace Google Now (which offered information based on under behavior prediction), Assistant can engage in two-way conversations, execute commands, and more.
Initially exclusive to Google’s Pixel smartphones, Assistant was added to other Android devices in early 2017. Using Google’s natural language processing algorithm, Assistant can execute commands through a number of compatible Google Apps (Google Express for shopping, Google Keep for notes, etc.), as well as set reminders, alarms, calendar events, and more.
What’s the verdict?
Alexa is nice in your home or office, but when it comes to the virtual assistant in your pocket and on the go, Siri was the first, and now Google Assistant is quickly gaining popularity. Google overtakes Siri in how well it can understand and execute what you’re saying to it, all thanks to that natural language processing algorithm. Setting up a to-do list, scheduling meetings and reminders, sending emails – it’s all crucial for day-to-day mobile operations, and “mobile” is the keyword, all of which makes Google Assistant the victor in this battle.
Who will win the virtual assistant war? What will the rest of 2018 hold for the AI virtual assistant? We can’t wait to see!Published on 12th April 2018 by Jon Morningstar
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