A few years ago, Amazon Echo kicked off the smart assistants trend which started the race of virtual assistants among major companies. There are dozens of available assistants on the market and it is expected that more will be released in the coming years.
According to Consumer Intelligence Research Partners’ report, Amazon Echo is leading the competition with 20 million units delivered, outselling its nearest rival Google Home more than three times.
As homes upgrade and get smarter, Google Assistant, Siri, and Alexa, assist through devices, following voice commands to play music, set timers, and even teach children to spell difficult words. Needless to say, they’re known to be the best of their kind.
Smarts assistants have developed from a couple of originating places, but have already converged to a larger scale. Amazon Echo’s Alexa introduced the technology of a voice command speaker, and was later included to the list of Amazon Fire TV devices and other third-party speakers. Most consumers initially perceived that Alexa was mainly used for streaming music because it was used as a feature on speakers. When Amazon offered Alexa to third-party companies, smart home providers incorporated it to let users enjoy many features, including adjusting thermostat or controlling light through voice commands.
Siri and Google Assistant started as a voice dialing services on iPhones and Android phones, respectively. Both of these features allowed users to play songs, make and take calls, and reply to SMS, whether in the office, at home, or in a car. So far, Google has accomplished a better job connecting into homes with speakers and smart TVs than Apple has.
With the rapid growth of smart assistants and demand across the globe, these smart devices will not remain on bookshelves and coffee tables for too long. Sooner or later, smart digital assistants will be integrated into corporations as well – a possibility that is not foreign to the creators of these smart devices. Last fall, it was announced by Amazon that they would release Alexa for Business during their re:Invent 2017 conference.
Other than its conference-calling feature, Alexa for Business offers checking of calendar appointment, scheduling meetings, creating a to-do listing and time management reminders with the option to gather business-related information from Splunk, Concur, and Salesforce among many others.
Stone Temple, a US digital agency, analyzed the level of general knowledge these smart digital assistants have. This is the second time that the company conducted this study by making the selected smart assistants reply to 5,000 general questions. Based on the results, Google Assistant on smartphones performed with the highest accuracy of 95%, and had an answering share of 77.2%. Amazon Alexa answered 53.7%, of which 82.6% were correct, compared to its last year performance of 19.8% of answering share with 19.8% of correct answers. Siri from Apple answered 40% with 80% accuracy, a much better performance than last year with 31.4% answering share with 86.1% correct answers. These figures only prove that smart digital assistants are getting smarter and smarter.
In another unlikely event, reports of Alexa laughing without any commands coming from its users have added to some concerns regarding the security and privacy of smart digital assistants. Some users narrated that the AI assistant living on Echo speakers started laughing creepily at them, without being told to. Amazon then quickly addressed the issue and released a fix. The smart assistant was just activated by itself after mishearing some vague instructions, as per Amazon.
The quick acknowledgement made by Amazon was a good step, but the explanation did not directly satisfy some users, given that they posted and shared videos proving that Alexa was laughing without any voice commands, not even misheard instructions. Amazon also suggested that the digital assistant might have picked up distant noises from the background. There’s a possibility though that the company just might reveal the true story behind all the fiasco.
Over time, Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri will more likely continue to get progressively smarter. A day will come that they might actually live up to the expectation and potential that they have promised to deliver. Until then, they will remain as eerie, always-eavesdropping novelty services that collect users’ data. For what it’s worth, at least users can track the traffic jam in their area without even watching boring news report.