Do you use your phone's personal voice assistant?Anna Scantlin - Contributing Editor
It all started in 2011 with the introduction of Siri in the iPhone 4S. Siri is an intelligent electronic personal assistant that is activated by voice, and much like how smartwatches are being perceived by us now, Siri looked to be the beginning stage of a technology that humans had only dreamed of for decades. While voice control has been a technology that's been around for a few years, nothing had ever had the intelligence to hold entire conversations with us at the depth that Siri could. Siri, while useful for taking commands, was also useful for holding somewhat amusing conversations, and for those two reasons (or perhaps three, if you count the added bonus that Samuel L. Jackson endorses it) Siri became a hit sensation.
And of course, with any technology that gets that much attention you're bound to have competition pop up sooner or later. Not long after Siri arrived came S-Voice, which was Samsung's variation of an intelligent electronic personal assistant and featured in many of their Android devices. However, S Voice seems to have taken a backseat now that a competitor like Google Now, which is even available on the iPhone itself, is part of the picture. There are also several third party applications that have been developed even before Siri was included on the iPhone (Siri started out as a third party application itself) as alternatives for intelligent virtual assistants. BlackBerry and Windows Phone also have their own variants for voice control, but neither seem to be able to compete on the same levels as Google Now or Siri at the moment.
That being said, neither of the two more popular voice assistants are perfect, and each seem to have their strong and weak points that counteract each other. For example, Google Now started out as mostly designed to answer questions that are related to applications, web search or other elements that use the Internet. On the other hand, Siri is more optimized for taking commands related to interactions with the phone itself, like dictating messages, making phone calls and playing music. Although Siri can do some functions rather well that don't have to do with phone functions, it can sometimes misunderstand what you're talking about completely or take a bit longer than Google Now would. Likewise, Google Now can perform some functions within the phone, but for the most part Siri is superior in that department.
But each voice activated personal assistant strives to get better as time passes, and as these electronic secretaries get better, I wonder if people are adopting the idea more. When Siri was first released, it was the bee's knees... for keeping somebody entertained. I don't know if maybe I just have some sort of unintelligible speech issue that I've never known about, but according to Siri, I definitely do. Sometimes I can get her to understand what I'm saying, but most of the time it either didn't register to her, or didn't come up with the desired result. At least, not as seamless as I would like it to be. More often than not, it would have been faster for me just to set the alarm myself, or Google Map the nearest Applebee's (No Siri, I don't want to do a web search for "apple trees", but thanks anyway.) I think because of this experience that I pretty much wrote off the whole electronic personal assistant thing and just decided to do things old school and command my phone or type queries in manually.
I think another part of me has a privacy issue; it's kind of the same reason why I don't like using speakerphone. I don't like people knowing exactly what I'm doing at all times. If I want to know if Zac Efron is single or not, I don't want the whole world knowing that I'm a lonely and desperate woman who has no business knowing such information in the first place. Even if it's something not embarrassing, it just feels foreign to me to ask my phone to do something for me - audibly asking my phone a question. No matter how advanced these personal assistants get, I'm not sure I'll ever be able to get over the awkward feeling I get when commanding my phone to provide information for me.
But what about you, readers? Have you become close friends with your intelligent electronic personal assistant, or do you prefer to do things the retro way? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!