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June 27, 2017

Voice Assistants

Some of the big technology devices to hit in recent years are Voice Assistants. The idea first came about on TV with Star Trek in the ‘60s. This was when you could communicate by voice instructions with the computers. In the real world, “Siri” started on the iPhone 4S at its release in October 2011. And then, “Ok, Google” began in July 2012, and was first supported on the Galaxy Nexus smartphone. So yes, as always Apple created it first (like phones) and then others improve on it. Most will agree that OK, Google surpasses the Siri app at this point in time. Then there came Cortana from Microsoft, which was announced in January 2015 for Windows 10 desktops and mobile devices.

With those assistants you can look up weather, call people in your address book, get a phone number, get your map to plan a drive, etc. Be careful on that mapping part as I keep seeing articles about people getting lost using them. However, for us, Waze and Google Maps have always been spot on.

Google vs Amazon

Starting last year Amazon and Google started rolling out their devices, with Alexa, (the Echo and Dot seem to be the most popular) and Home respectively. There are other devices available but they are bought in insignificant numbers by comparison.

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Now the Voice Assistants are standalone devices and are selling like, well actually better than, hot cakes. According to the 2017 report from VoiceLabs, “Amazon Echo and Google Home…will sell more than 24 million units combined through the end of 2017.”

Amazon Alexa vs Google Home

They are devices that connect to your Wi-Fi and you speak to them. You can verbally ask questions, set alarms, get news, check the weather, get directions, find phone numbers, perform conversions, do math, find how long it takes to get somewhere (using local traffic conditions) and many more things.

I have been testing a Google Home and it is very, very accurate in both translating your voice and giving accurate responses. In the morning I asked it to tell me about my day. It proceeded to first give me the weather predictions for the day followed by my calendar’s agenda. Then it started telling me the news from various news stations. You can set the news channels you prefer if you wish.

To use the Google device you must have Wi-Fi, either an Android or iPhone device, the application Google Home installed and you are ready to go. The setup process took about five minutes including Google Home updating itself. It was quite easy.

It will also integrate with some other devices; although, at this time the Alexa mixes with many more. That means it can possibly run your TV, cut off your lights, communicate between you and some of your appliances, etc. The only other system I have that it works with is Google Chromecast hooked to my TV. So I can play items there automatically and control them by voice.

Amazon’s devices work pretty much the same; however, as usual, people debate over which is better online all the time. For me, since I am a Google/Android fan I would go for the GH, but either is good. Are these devices a need? No, but I am going to predict that we are going to see a lot more of them in the future.

If you get one do not forget to play with it. Ask it to tell you a joke, ask it how tall you are, ask it if the other device is any good, etc. It made me laugh when I asked it what the fox says…give it a shot if you get the chance.

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