Who to Hire As Your Virtual Assistant

  • Alexa? Siri? Google Assistant?
  • What’s the difference?
  • Is there a clear winner?

We’re all waiting for the day we get a kind-mannered Artificial Intelligent robot assistant with the heart of Robin Williams. We’re not quite there yet, but we’re getting closer.

 

So who should you hire to help you out in the meantime?

 

At this point there are three options in Australia;

 

Alexa from Amazon, Siri from Apple, and Google Assistant from Google.



The Amazon Echo - “Alexa”:

 

The Amazon Echo speaker has made its way into the Australian market. Alexa is the lady who lives inside it and will tell you things you always wanted to know through a command like, “Alexa, what time will the sun set tonight?”

 

The Amazon Echo retails at around $150 and is their “classic” version allowing regular virtual assistant needs like music, alarms, weather, and will also link to lights and heating.

 

They also provide a smaller version, the Amazon Dot ($80) and the deluxe model called Amazon Plus ($230). The Dot doesn’t have the same sound quality but will talk to the central Echo and be a good way of connecting extra speakers around the house and do the simple things you need. The Plus comes with a built-in smart home hub and will set up Zigbee lights, locks and more from brands like Philips Hue and others.

 

John Davidson from the Financial Review wrote about the Echo Plus, “If you've ever used a phone app to turn on a smart light, you'll see the problem. Without voice control, smart devices don't make a lot of sense. They're good if you want to automate things, such as turning on the lights when motion is detected in your front hallway, but when it comes to manually turning things on and off, you're better off with the original, non-smart thing that the smart thing replaced. Hunting around for your phone and opening up an app is much more cumbersome than getting up and flicking a light switch.”



HomePod - “Siri”:

 

Siri, due to the power of Apple products, is the most recognisable name in this new world. She’ll tell jokes, answer your questions and be the friend you’ve always wanted. The HomePod however, has aimed to establish itself as the pinnacle of sound quality within the seven inch tall speaker.

 

The HomePod will answer phone calls hands free, send texts via your voice and Siri will read texts back to you. You can ask Siri to turn lights on and off in certain rooms and because we love Apple products, it’s easy to talk and connect to your iPhone, iPad and iMac.

 

The best factor seems to be that Siri will learn the music you like to listen to and will play your favourite songs and introduce you to new gems. Apple calls her your “Musicologist”.

 

You can get one of these babies for a mere $500.

 

Tim Briggs from the Sydney Morning Herald wrote, “You'll also need to learn some very specific commands to get the most out of the speaker. For example if you ask for a specific song, HomePod will only play that song and then stop, unlike Google's Home which just continues on with an on-the-fly playlist. To get the same functionality here, you need to interrupt mid-song to say "play more like this".”

 

Google Home - “Google Assistant”:

 

If Google is a word we use on a regular basis in the way we say “just Google it”, then we can forgive the fact they haven’t come up with a name. Instead, you just ask, “Google, when was the last time Carlton won a premiership?”

 

As with the others, the features are similar in regards to playing music, alarms, reminders, scheduling and working with other Google products like Chromecast.

 

The Australian version is specially equipped to understand our accents and slang like “G’Day” and will in fact be able to tell you when the last Carlton premiership was (it was 1995). The Google Home will also dim the lights for you and set the temperature as a standard feature.

 

It’s retailed at $199 but looking online it’s available at some outlets for $133.

 

Matthew Dunn from News.com.au wrote, “The biggest downside is deciding where to position the unit in the house to get the best results, so hopefully future models will offer battery power to allow you to move it as needed.”



So where does this leave you?

 

Unfortunately, it seems to be that they all have similar features with some ups and downs. No one is yet to break open the market as the technology is relatively new but the cost looks to be a big factor along with the device’s ability to accurately pick up your voice. Therefore, going in store to have a chat to your Virtual Assistant might be a good idea, then check the price tag and finish with a highly educated decision about who you let become a part of your home.

 

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