Making smartphones even smarter, you'll now find a virtual assistant available with almost everysmartphone. While Apple’s Siri may have started the trend, today there are a number of intelligent assistants available from tech giants like Google, Samsung, Amazon and Microsoft.
Siri, Bixby, Alexa - they can all tell you the weather forecast or text your mate - so what seperates them? We've compared all the major players, revealing their origins and putting them head-to-head.
Released: February 2010
While Siri was by no means the first ever virtual assistant to exist in the tech world, it was the first to be included on a smartphone. To this day, Siri is still the most popular virtual assistant out there. It was originally created as a government AI project, funded by the US Dept of Defence, but after less than two months of release it was acquired by Apple.
The iPhone 4S was the first device to be released with Siri built-in, and the rest is history. Remaining exclusive to Apple devices, there's no doubt Siri has transformed massively in seven years. Today, it can perform all sorts of tasks (and you can now communicate by typing to Siri too).
Ever wondered who the original voice of Siri belongs to? Find out here.
Top 3 Siri Features
Remind you where you parked your car.
Use your car's Bluetooth system with your iPhone, and Siri will automatically remember where you left it as soon as it disconnects. Simply ask 'Siri, where did I leave my car?' for the exact location.
Using apps like PayPal or Venmo, you can send money to your friends quickly and easily. Just tell Siri the amount and account, confirm details, and the transaction is complete.
Take a selfie.
Want to launch the front-facing camera quickly? Just tell Siri to 'take a selfie' and it'll pop up in seconds.
Released: May 2016
A step up from Google Now (Google's first virtual assistant), Google Assistant is essentially the tech giant's virtual assistant 2.0. Google Assistant can go beyond basic commands, and can really get to know you. You can find Google Assistant on various smartphones running Android Nougat, Google Home, Pixel Buds and even various smartwatches. The app is also ready for download on Android and iOS.
Unlike Google Now, Google Assistant can have full, two-way conversations with you. You'll no longer receive a search result in answer to a query either, instead it'll can craft its replies in complete sentences - sounding more like a real assistant than a virtual one.
Want to know everything Google Assistant can do? Find out here.
Top 3 Google Assistant Features
Translate a foreign language.
With the ability to translate over 100 languages in real time, Google Assistant can be your very own international interpreter.
Control your home.
Set the mood by dimming your smart lights, or get ready for a brew by switching on a smart kettle. (You'll still have to get up to fetch the teabag though.)
Research with lightning speed.
With the addition of Google Lens, you can also point your camera at an object or building and Google Assistant will recognise it, following up with any need-to-know information like opening times and reviews.
Released: November 2014
Amazon's intelligent assistant Alexa launched with the Amazon Echo back in 2014, and it took many by surprise. The Echo was simply marketed as a speaker packed with a few smart voice commands but, over time, Amazon began to build on the assistant's capabilities - adding thousands of skills.
In February 2017, Alexa hit 10,000 skills and Amazon continuing to develop new ones all the time. Today, Alexa is available on iOS, Android, Fire OS and most Amazon devices - from the original Amazon Echo to the Echo Dot. You can use also Alexa with any smartphone, by downloading the Alexa app.
Top 3 Amazon Alexa Features
With Amazon Prime in your corner you'll have a huge library of songs at your disposal. Just tell Alexa what you fancy listening to, from albums, artists, playlists, or simply by genre.
You can re-order groceries directly from Amazon. When synched with your Amazon account you'll never be more than a voice request away from a full cupboard.
Stay warm this winter.
With Nest home heating system in your corner, Alexa can change the temperature of your home and you won't have to lift a finger.
Release date: April 2017
Samsung are fairly new to the world of digital assistants, launching Bixby in April 2017. Designed to understand complete sentences rather than commands, Bixby is more like Google Assistant and Amazon's Alexa. It'll become smarter the more you use it too, remembering your preferences and picking up on your habits.
Bixby has three main parts: Voice, Home and Vision. Bixby Voice acts like many other voice-activated assistants - ask it to do something, and your wish is Bixby's command. Bixby Home, meanwhile, will bring relevant information from multiple apps together on one screen.
Curious to know more about Bixby? Discover more about what Samsung's virtual assistant can do right here.
Top 3 Samsung Bixby Features
Swipe right and you'll see your schedule, the weather forecast, the news and more in an instant.
Similar to Google Lens, point your smartphone's camera lens at a foreign sign, shop, landmark or even an object and Bixby will get to work. It can translate other languages, provide useful information on iconic buildings or opening times of a store.
Bixby can even help you shop. Seen someone wearing a pair of shoes you like the look of? Point and shoot, and it'll suggest where you can get a pair of your own.
Release date: April 2014
We first said hello to Cortana (named after an AI character in Microsoft’s Halo franchise) with the release of Windows 8.1. For a short time, Microsoft's virtual assistant featured primarily on laptops and desktops, before making the jump to smartphones and consoles. While it remains an intrinsic feature of all Windows computers, every device currently using Windows 10 - including smartphones and the Xbox One - now have Cortana built in.
The Cortana app, meanwhile, can be used with Android and iOS phones, although its capabilities are limited when working with Apple. Cortana is continuously evolving, and has developed to recognise context. The smart assistant will remember information about you, utilising it to inform its responses in the future. You can type to Cortana too, if you find yourself in a situation where you'd rather not speak out loud.
Top 3 Microsoft Cortanan Features
Sing me a song.
Ask Cortana to sing you a song, and you'll hear an actual human voice singing back to you, rather than a robotic rendition.
Set a reminder.
Ask Cortana to remind you to pick up oranges when you're next in Tesco, and it'll do so whenever you're next in the store.
Set a person-based reminder.
Want to ask John about an upcoming gig next time you message him? Tell Cortana, and she'll remind you next time you start a conversation.
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