Voice Assistants – Which One is Right For You?
Cloud-based voice services, also known as digital virtual assistants represent the most widely used marketable form of AI technology. With constant programming improvements coupled with new powerful hardware, these virtual assistants are becoming an integral part of daily life for the modern person. They provide an ever-more needed interface between you and all your devices. Examples of how these assistants are commonly used include:
- Getting answers to your off-hand questions, whether it be mathematical, what the weather is going to be or who that actor was you saw in a recent movie.
- Automation of your daily routine.
- Helping you learn a new language.
- Intercom service for your home.
- Smart Home applications like thermostat control, opening the garage door, turning on/off lights.
- Playing music and volume control.
- Hands-free driving communication and interface.
- Message dictation.
- Scheduling appointments and setting alarms.
With the tech industry continuing to innovate, the sky’s the limit for the functions and features available in the future. A 2018 Juniper Research report showed that the number of voice assistants used will triple by 2023 which means they are here to stay. There are however a variety of voice assistants to choose from which can make it difficult to pick an appropriate fit. The most popularly used ones are Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple’s Siri, and Microsoft’s Cortana. With a market almost saturated with voice assistants and hardware, which one is the right one for you? Deciding which one is a perfect fit for your needs will depend on a variety of influential factors we will now explore.
Getting the most out of your virtual assistant means making it the main hub for all your devices. It should be able to interface via wifi-or Bluetooth with your smartphone, computer, smart speaker, and car. If you have an Apple TV in your living room, your car has Apple car play, and you own an iPhone, the obvious choice would be to use Apple’s Siri. Keeping loyal to a particular brand will allow for seamless usage.
For people with a mishmash of different branded devices and software, Amazon’s Alexa is the better choice as it is compatible with over 7,400 different brands. The only fault we find with Alexa is that it does not come pre-downloaded on any smartphone and so its use via phone can be a bit clunky.
What Do You Plan on Using Your Assistant For?
Virtual assistants are getting smarter, and with the help of apps like IFTTT, you can actually teach your device to do things for you when you want it to.
If you’re hoping to get a device to help manage your workday, Google Home might be your best choice, because it ties directly in with other Google programs like Gmail, Google Docs and Google News. Plus, it pulls in relevant Google search returns when you ask questions – and the list of answers continues to grow exponentially every day.
If you’re looking for a device to control your household amenities, listen to music and make phone calls, Siri or the Amazon Echo might be the best option.
Weighing what you already use with what you want the device to do should determine what choice is best for you.
There isn’t a major difference in price between Google’s Home and the Amazon Echo, and each has three increasingly higher tier models. As companies compete for greater market share, the costs have significantly decreased for lower-tier versions.
The Google Home costs around $69 for a Nest Mini, $129 for the base model and $299 for the Max version. The Echo Dot goes for around $45, $100 for the base model and $200 for the Echo Plus. The basic functions are all the same on all models, but the more expensive devices have substantially better speakers.
The Apple HomePod sells for around $400, but you don’t need to invest in the hardware to use Siri to dim your lights or tell you the score in last night’s hockey game – it’s already installed on your iPhone or iPad. So you don’t need to buy a HomePod if you don’t want to.
Of course, all the external devices like the Phillips Hue, the Nest thermostat or the Mr. Coffee Smart Coffeemaker are all sold separately. Your choice of virtual assistant doesn’t affect the price of those devices, but it’s important to remember that not every device works with every assistant, so do your research before you pull out your credit card.
Ultimately, the choice is yours to make. Choosing an assistant that can easily sync to the devices and applications you already use makes the most sense. Before you know it, your voice assistant will be integrated into your daily life and you’ll never know how you survived without it.