Battle of the Digital Assistants

Dec 26, 2015
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There is a long list of movies that upon reflection eerily predicted our future, but it’s the Spike Jonze film ‘Her’ that resonates with me only two years since its original release. A prophetic vision of a society that is heavily depending on technology while living in social isolation feels increasingly relevant.

There is a strong argument that this impending reality is much closer than many of us would care to admit. Only last week, yet another digital assistant entered our lives in the form of Cortana, who arrived as part of the Windows 10 operating system.

A few of us already have the dubious claim to fame of having more digital assistants than close friends of the human variety. Apple’s Siri, Google Now, Cortana, and Amazon’s Alexa all bring something different to the table and dare I say personality to the proceedings.

Could it be time for the phrase ‘Just Google it’ to be replaced? It seems that users increasingly feel that even typing requires too much effort these days. Are these cross-platform digital assistants be getting a little too familiar as they prepare to create the smart homes of tomorrow?

Cortana has ambitious plans to be featured on one billion devices in the next two to three years, and there are even reports of a Bluetooth button becoming available for those that enjoy chatting to their machines.

Former frontrunner Apple Siri is now finding the limitations of being available exclusively to Apple only which will ultimately prevent further growth. This is something that Amazon have quickly learned with their assistant who answers to the name Alexa on their Echo device.

However, Amazon has now officially released a developer preview of their Alexa Voice Service:

With the developer preview, you get access to a collection of self-service tools, documentation, and APIs and code samples to enhance your device and delight your customers with new voice experiences. Alexa includes access to information, music, audiobooks, news, weather, traffic and more, including any custom skills you create using the Alexa Skills Kit to differentiate your device – Amazon

Google Now is equally available on multiplatform across Android, iPhone and iOS. Google also has the useful and some would say creepy bonus of knowing everything about its users making it easier to offer information based on your interests and lifestyle.

We are now entering an age where millennials who have grown up interacting with Apple‘s digital assistant Siri cannot remember a time without it. Is it beyond the realms of possibility that these users will over time begin to develop bizarre relationships with their operating systems? Ludicrous right?

We are constantly staring at a screen of some variety that seems to spoonfeed messages of how dangerous the outside world is and that we should stay inside and lock the doors. We communicate with our friends through Facebook and find love via online dating apps or websites as technology becomes ingrained into our personal lives.

My only fear is we slowly desensitise our humanity and allow an epidemic of loneliness to engulf our world. For this reason alone, maybe we should all put a little time aside for good old fashioned face to face to communication and ignore the headlines occasionally to soak up a sunset in the great outdoors without feeling the need to post it on Instagram.

It’s a long shot, but I got a good feeling that living in the moment rather than recording it might just catch on. As for digital assistants, you might want to set the table for the newest member of your family because the much talked about smart home will be here much sooner than you think.

What are your opinions and experiences with Apple Siri, Google Now, Cortana, and Amazon’s Alexa? Let me know your thoughts by commenting below.

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