Siri, Google Assistant, Cortana, Alexa, Bixby – do you even use them?
Ever since the introduction of Siri on the iPhone 4S back in 2011 there has been a plethora of digital assistants that were released on competing platforms. These digital assistants initially started as a way for you use your voice in aiding you with your tasks. Things like setting up alarms or sending a text message can be done easily by simply saying a specific command.
It was a fun feature at first, though the first generation of digital assistants weren’t perfect. Remember when Siri had trouble understanding what you said? Remember when it had trouble understanding other accents?
But what makes these companies push for the further development of such personal assistants is that in the future, there is a chance that these will only the only thing powering smart devices. And while I personally don’t rely too much on such services, I realized that others can find benefit on them.
Take for example a recent friend of mine who has impaired vision due to an accident. He was a big Apple user – and since the iPhone is mostly a huge touchscreen he can’t possibly use it normally like it was before. With Apple’s own Accessibility settings, he can still manage to use his iPhone but what I just learned is that he now constantly uses Siri to read him emails and somehow aid him in certain tasks.
The problem (and also an advantage) is that these digital assistants use machine learning based on what you tell them every day. Along with access to some of your personal data, one can’t help but wonder how privacy will come into the mix. The companies did assure us that your personal data is safe and encrypted and will only be used if needed, but is that enough?
Another hurdle is that personal digital assistants vary with every device and committing to one means you need to use one brand with all your gadgets, which wouldn’t work well if you like using an iPhone and an Android device.
Then again each of these digital assistant have their own pros and cons. Apple had Siri since the 4S and has now made its way to nearly all of their products from the iPhone to MacOS. Google has Google Assistant, which is built-in by default with every Android device powered by Android Marshmallow or Android Nougat. Amazon has its own Alexa assistant that is baked on most of its hardware. Even Samsung has just recently introduced Bixby, though it’s still hit and miss.
But from what we’ve learned in the last couple of years is that personal assistants will just get better and better especially with the way they learn and adapt to voice commands. We can understand that these companies aim for something good – though it is still up to the user if they eventually want to use it to its fullest potential.
For now, I only use Siri to tell me a funny joke. That’s about it.