In just a few weeks of using Apple's virtual assistant “Siri” on the iPhone 4S, I have realized that sometimes we get along and sometimes we don't, especially when I'm frustrated that she can't do or understand what I'm asking her.
Our “relationship” is not as cozy as the eerie connection Siri has with actor John Malkovich in the commercials touting her features, but it's mostly functional and the idea of a voice-activated assistant is novel enough to be interesting.
Yes, Siri is a voice that you can use to operate your phone — to look up contacts, find directions, set reminders, find out information and other things. While she came on the mobile scene early and with great fanfare with the launch of the 4S last fall, she now has competition, including a new one called Everfriends that bills itself as a “siri-ously great voice-driven app for Android.”
Siri does some things well, like voice recognition, and I am amazed at how much technology has improved to the point that she understands my words most of the time. She is especially helpful when I ask her to dial a person in my contact list, and she can take dictation well in texts and emails, as long as I remember to tell her where the punctuation goes. Our problems come when I ask her to do something she's not programmed to do, like modify a contact or open an application on the phone.
I think that Siri's expertise and that of other virtual assistants like her will only get better and more useful to us.
The new Samsung Galaxy III has a similar assistant called Galaxy that Android users find under the included “S Voice” app. I have only used this one for a short time on a phone loaned to me by Verizon, but so far, I am impressed with both the device and the S Voice. The Galaxy assistant can even open apps for you, which Siri is not allowed to do, but “she” (another female like Siri) operates a lot like her Apple counterpart.
Another one people can download on the Google Play app store is a separate app for Android devices: Everfriends — Voice Assistant from i-Free Innovations, a Russian mobile app and gaming publisher. The new app developed by a team of engineers launched in the United States this month. It is free, but you can pay for additional features, like for characters with smoother voices instead of the stilted text-to-speech one. The app uses an artificial intelligence technology that won the Turing 100 AI Machines Competition in London in June.
I stayed with the free version, and the main character “Mary” is infused with personality, even if she sounds a bit like she has a cold. The app also includes a choice of other personalities to retrieve information and work the phone — Spoony, a cuddly alien who, as the app notes, loves a good prank and sunbathing and comes from the planet Edelweiss; Brainy, described as genuine, pretty and smart; and Mei, “a starry-eyed keeper of Eastern beauty.”
Everfriends' characters will let you know about events on your calendar, tell you the weather or news, set an alarm, give you Facebook and Twitter updates, book travel, read information from Google maps and Wiki entries, provide jokes, music and fashion advice and more.
It has an online TV feature, can interact with other apps and can speak to you in Russian, English or Spanish.
It's a little bit cumbersome to use and I think it will take some time to get to know the Everfriends assistants and how to navigate the app. But if you don't have a voice assistant already on your Android phone and you want one, the free version gives you enough of an idea of what the app will do and whether it's something you want to explore.
How do you use virtual assistants on your phones? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your thoughts about these voice-activated apps. For more apps, go online to blog.NewsOK.com/get-appy. Twitter: @lillie_beth.