The fun way to search for stuff online or ask about the weather forecast has expanded into complex human-specific commands that will help you Assistants at your fingertips. She remembers your appointments, she wakes you up and she tells you if you’ll need an umbrella. No she’s not your better half, she’s Cortana or Google Now digital assistant that comes baked into one of your smartphones these days. From the next big thing in web search to the latest feature differentiation between the different platforms, these digital assistants by Microsoft, Apple and Google are stuff that we saw in science fiction movies only these are real and these are here, now.
Even in the paltry handful of years that they have existed, it’s astonishing to see how much they have improved. From buggy speech recognition that seemed to never understand the different accent to the near fulfillment of the vision many of you saw in the video game Halo, these marvels of software have come a long way. What began as a fun way to search for stuff online or ask about the weather forecast, today has expanded into complex location- sensitive, human-specific commands. Today you can actually ask Cortana to “call my dad, when I get to office” and provided you spent a one time effort to bring her up to speed, she will know who your dad is and where your office is serving you the reminder at just the right time. And the trend is only getting more impressive.
With the recently announced, next version of iOS 9, the operating system that powers iPhones and iPads, Siri the digital assistant designed by Apple will not only be 40 per cent faster at responding to your query, but she also now supports contextual reminders and new ways to search photos and videos, catching up to Cortana.
Siri’s Proactive feature offers useful information and suggests actions, including apps to launch or people to contact, based on your recent usage, and pings you about your appointments, offering traffic conditions to your destination.
She can even learn your listening habits at certain times and places to give you the music you want to hear at the time when you’re generally listening and if you ask Siri to “show me photos I took last year”, she will bring you to the Photos app with only those photos shot last year displayed; it was at this moment Apple also wisely chose to share how our privacy is really important to them.
Many of these features seemed however seemed to playing catch-up to Microsoft’s Cortana or the recently announced features of Google Now. At its annual developer conference this year, Google launched new capabilities for its digital assistant without a person- able name, including the ability to understand what you are doing with your phone and help you in that effort. Dubbed ‘Now on Tap’, this feature looks at your screen and gives you helpful information for example while listening to some Skrillex, if you ask Google Now “What’s his name”, you get to see the musicians real name Tyler Joseph. In an email with movie names, it will provide detailed info cards about the titles so you can quickly browse through the ratings and such.
Not to be left behind, Microsoft is bringing its uber-impressive assistant Cortana to desktops, laptops and tablets this year with Windows 10 over from Windows Phone. In Windows 10, Cortana is available everywhere from her own search box in the taskbar to the new browser called Edge Cortana handles all your search and queries. Having Cortana on your computer means you will get reminders no matter what device you are using and use any device to edit her ‘Notebook’ the little diary she keeps to remember things about you it really is a fantastic piece of engineering.
Digital assistants are so cool these days that even companies with very little to do with software are understanding how critical these voice-run platforms are for the future of search, Amazon recently launched the Echo a wireless speaker that you set up in your home and askfor stuff hopefully directing you to the Amazon store every now and then.
Until a while ago, selecting a personal digital assistant was not something many of us used to do. But with the fast-improving, distinct offerings on each platform, the day has come to thing for you to rethink your next gadget buy around this trend.