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.