What is AI, what's available and what's coming?

Digital voice assistants in smartphones have been gaining ground for a while, and happily for customers, the fight is going to get tougher with several new players entering the fray in the coming days.

Here's a list of existing digital voice assistants as well as upcoming ones.

Made famous by Apple's Siri, the concept of a digital voice assistant ensures that you have a digital robot in your phone who can perform a lot of work for you, thus letting you save precious time and energy for other things. These include making calls, sending texts, booking reservations and appointments, finding directions, searching for answers on the web, doing your calculations and setting your alarm.

As of now, the most well-known digital AI assistants are Apple's Siri, Google's Google Now, Amazon's Alexa, Microsoft's Cortana and HTC Companion. These services have improved considerably over the past few years and are now able to perform functions which you wouldn't have expected from them a couple of years ago.

Here's a look at the best-known available digital AI assistants:

Amazon Alexa

Alexa, Amazon's proprietary digital assistant, functions very similar to Apple's Siri, Microsoft's Cortana or the Google Now assistant in Android phones. If you ask her, Alexa will read out the news for you, check the latest scores, manage your calendar, play music and control lights in your home. Alexa can also control a range of third party apps including the likes of Spotify, Uber, Philips Hue, Hive, Just Eat and National Rail Enquiries. Just like Siri, Google Now and Cortana use their respective browsers, Alexa will search for answers to your queries on Amazon's web services.

Logitech today announced its ZeroTouch Dashboard car mounts for Android phones to let drivers and passengers interact with Alexa and to control their smart home devices through it. ZeroTouch will help users utilize Alexa to send texts, make calls, play music, navigate to destinations and share locations. Logitech ZeroTouch is available to buy from Carphone Warehouse for just £29.99, down from £59.99 earlier.

Microsoft Cortana

With this year's Windows 10 Anniversary update, Cortana can now be accessed even when the screen is locked and can perform functions like answering questions, playing music and setting reminders. Cortana can also remember things for you which you recently did and will let you add photos to make your reminders visual. The best part about it is that thanks to Microsoft's Continuum concept, Cortana works across devices, including Xbox, and can be synced accordingly.

The Cortana app is available in Android and iOS devices as well.  Like in Windows devices, you will be able to activate it hands-free and a 'Hey Cortana' call should wake it up on your device.

Apple Siri

Siri is probably the best digital AI assistant out there thanks to a rich experiance of handling millions of users' requests and also because of annual updates which Apple throws in.

Siri is now more responsive and is catering to a whole new world of user requests. If you wish to go back down memory lane and want to see pictures of a picnic that you were part of several years ago, Siri will bring those photos up from the photo library in your iPhone. Siri can also suggest apps to launch and people to get in touch with based on your usage history. It also keeps a track of traffic conditions and reminds you when to leave for appointments. The best part is that you can now turn Siri's voice off if your phone is on silent. That'll prevent Siri from lending its voice when you're in a meeting!

Thanks to iOS 10, Siri is ready for apps like WeChat, WhatsApp and Slack, and ride hailing services like Uber, Lyft and Didi in China (which Apple invested in recently). Searching photos through apps like Shutterfly and Pinterest can be done with your voice thanks to Siri, and you can start, pause and stop fitness workouts with MapMyRun, Runtastic and RunKeeper. Siri can also help you send money to friends with Number26, Square and Alipay, or start a VoIP call to tell your friend why you're not paying them on time via Cisco Spark, Vonage and Skype.

Google Now

Google Now is now a permanent feature in most Android phones and is thus the most-used digital voice assistant in the world by a long way. Like other assistants, it can engage in conversations with you and can help you with whatever you're looking for using its in-built Google search function. The Google Assistant feature is available to download and use in iOS devices as well.

What's coming?

Samsung Bixby

Samsung is expected to launch its new digital voice assistant named Bixby on 29th March with its new flagship phones- the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus. According to Sammobile who broke the rumour, Bixby will be able to perform a range of functions which will include controlling native apps, conducting payments as well as letting users conduct visual search using the Galaxy S8 camera. The report states that the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8 Plus cameras will feature a Bixby button which will help you know about things by pointing your phone camera at them.

Once a Galaxy S8 owner will point his camera at something, Bixby will analyse it and try to identify the object or text and inform the owner accordingly. The report adds that users will be able to make use of this feature to buy things that they come across using Bixby.

Microsoft Home Hub

Microsoft is planning on launching an artificial intelligence service of it's own which will be called the HomeHub. HomeHub will reportedly be integrated around Cortana and will work on all Windows 10 platforms instead of dedicated devices like Amazon's Echo and Echo Dot.

Microsoft's HomeHub will be able to control smart devices in your home aside from helping you with your daily schedules, appointments, weather updates and search results. It's functioning will be no different to Amazon or Google's equivalents but given that millions of customers around the world are already using Windows 10 devices, HomeHub can be introduced as a major software upgrade instead of Microsoft asking users to buy new devices to try out the new AI concept.

 

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