Somewhere around 15 or perhaps 20 years ago I had a cell phone which responded to voice commands. It didn’t do much other than dial a number when I spoke a name. Here we are, well into the 21st century, and Siri on my iPhone does the same thing.
Granted, Siri is smarter. First of all, she has an attitude; a touch of snark here and there; most of it refreshing, and occasionally funny. Sir can open apps, respond to queries, get information, and act much like a digital dog running after a stick. Our family dog can do some of the same kinds of tricks, and I won’t call her stupid, but most of these online-based artificial intelligent voice agents are just that. Stupid. That’s a layman’s term for not too smart.
Do Something Useful, Siri
Perhaps the most useful function Siri can perform is the always listening option on my iPhone. When that’s turned on, all I have to do is say, “Hey, Siri…” and listen for the little response beep, ask my question or give her my command, and away we go.
I’m from Georgia and I sound like it. In fact, I’m more at home with the Mincey relatives in New Orleans than the rest of the family in Alabama or Georgia. That’s a polite way of saying we have southern accents, and Siri, as good as she is and in so many different languages, isn’t any better with a Georgia drawl than she is with someone from the Bronx or Scotland. Perhaps one query out of five has to be repeated. Artificial intelligent voice agent personal digital assistants just aren’t ready for prime time.
Wait. What about the latest darling of the technology industry and members of the technorati elite politburo? That would be Amazon’s Echo voice, Alexa. OK, I’ve tried Alexa with a Dot in the family room. Alexa, like Siri on my iPhone, is on all the time. That’s good. But Alexa is going to have problems in Mississippi that are similar to those here in Georgia. Accents. Alexa can do some things that Siri cannot, but Siri also does some commands and queries Alexa cannot. But Siri is in my pocket and goes everywhere anytime, while Alexa remains tethered to an Echo at home.
What about the Alexa app on the iPhone? There’s just no competition with an always on device. Too many steps for very little gain– other than tracking a recent Amazon order. That works. Sometimes. The same issue holds with Microsoft’s Cortana and Google Assistant and probably Samsung’s Bixby, though I’m not likely to venture into Samsungland just for another artificial intelligence (made by Siri’s original creators) app that often is more trouble than it’s worth.
All these so-called artificial intelligent voice agent personal digital assistants have a few things in common. They all do tricks the others don’t do. That’s product differentiation. They’re all limited in what they can do. They all have trouble with regional language accents. And all of them, well, there’s no easy way to put this– don’t do much. They’re basically stupid and don’t really learn as much as they listen for commands they understand.
How is that different than the family dog?