‘Okay Google’, or ‘Hey Siri’? Maybe none.

‘Okay Google. What’s the temperature outside?’

This might be the very first few words that come out of my mouth to know if the chilly Toronto weather is warm enough to help me leave my bed. We need to thank Apple for familiarizing the masses; rather bringing the virtual assistant technology into the limelight, for other tech-giants to follow-on.

Regardless of voice assistants being a part of the mainstream mobile market: from Siri to Google Now, and Cortona to Alexa, I personally don’t use Google Now on my Android except the morning temperature schedule, and a rare reminder now and then. Let me pour in some numbers to support my point. According to a recent by a market research firm Creative Strategies, a mere 6% people had ever used a voice assistant in public. Coupling with another research from HigherVisibility, only 27% people polled to use it at least once a week: again not a great number to support the amount of resources being put into this industry.

Source: http://giphy.com/gifs/with-computers-fascination-PxSFAnuubLkSA

We can boil down doomed nature of the voice assistants to basically two reasons. Firstly, as suggested by the multiple surveys, people find it really awkward and embarrassing to use the assistants publicly. Interestingly, the consumers are used to having longs calls on phones in public, but when it comes to talking to your phone instead, everyone seems to hesitant; which to me sounds fair enough. Secondly, the flexibility of the usage of the tool has been very limited. (Some more numbers coming up!) With the major 14.2% queries related to playing the music, followed by 12.6% for setting alarms and another 12.2% for asking the weather forecast (Hey, that’s me!), we can clearly see around 40% of the all queries dance around these three topics itself. Owing the dearth of possibilities with the assistant, people tend to experience the phone old-school.

But we must give credits where it’s due: Google. Siri might have become the household name since its launch, but Google have been continuously redefining this industry with remarkable research. Google Now has been instrumental in advancing the user interaction with the assistant. It preempts information from the user, builds its own data with time and responds according to the heaving self-learning algorithms. Moreover, unlike Siri, Now has been integrated with tons of third-party apps like Messenger, WhatsApp, to name a couple. From giving you updates of your upcoming flight, to closest coffee shops, assistant is always on its toes, providing a much smoother experience to users compared to all the other assistants in the market.

Source: http://giphy.com/gifs/google-whatsapp-now-133b07I6LLtr3O

With the release of Google Assistant, Google is trying to taken a step even further with real-time conversational chat, which means you can ask a question following up with series of follow-up questions, and the Assitant will keep track of the whole conversation, build a context and reply accordingly. Moreover, I was working on a project’s R&D at the time (June, 2016) Google opened access to its Google Cloud Speech API which covers more than 80 languages and provides you entire base with recognition machine learning algorithm. You can just install the modules and start teaching your ML model according to your needs.

Source: http://giphy.com/gifs/io-2HVddrhWaBI9G

A brilliant step taken by Google to provide developers a chance to have some hands-on experience with the technology. I hope this will help to enhance the user experience with the assistants and make sure more people feel comfortable using them.