Who’s smarter: Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home? Turns out it depends what you ask them.
In a study by New York-based digital agency 360i, researchers used proprietary new Voice Search Monitor (VSM) software to ask Alexa and Google the same set of 3,000 questions and found that Google Home was six times more likely to answer correctly.
As Fortune Magazine pointed out, that’s probably because Google Home is made by the company that designed the internet’s biggest search engine; of course it can answer anything.
The Home pulls information from Google’s Knowledge Graph database, a program that links with information services worldwide to provide the best search results. Google has been culling facts from its search results for the past five years to beef up the Knowledge Graph.
By contrast, Alexa simply isn’t focused on information. It sources facts from content partners and does a good enough job that the average user probably wouldn’t notice the difference, but there simply is no beating the search engine giant at its own game.
Meanwhile, there’s no beating the eCommerce giant it its game, either. With its perpetually growing cache of consumer insights, there’s little that could topple Amazon from the throne of its eCommerce empire. Plus, Alexa is still enjoying the head start advantage, holding a 70 percent share of the voice-activated speaker market.
Fortune also conjectured that the discrepancy could have arisen from the different phrasing necessary to complete the same tasks via the different smart speakers.
360i has not published a list of questions that were asked, but if one of them was, “Set the air conditioning to 72,” Google Home would have known how to relay that command to the linked Nest Thermostat, while Alexa would have required a different command structure and specific trigger words to get the same result.
360i plans to release more information from the ongoing study in the coming weeks, which should offer some insight into how researchers got the results they did.
In Other News…
360i isn’t the only one pitting Amazon against Google. Best Buy has set up smart home experience sections in 700 of its stores, and guess which voice activation giants are neighbors. There will be trained personnel on site to answer questions and demo both products.
Amazon’s display is a little more crowded, since the company has so many smart devices to showcase: the Echo, Echo Show, Echo Dot and Echo Tap will be on display, while Google offers only the flagship Home device. Perhaps the Home will be in better company if Apple’s HomePod gets the same treatment upon its release later this year.
Compatible smart home products such as Nest and Ecobee thermostats, Philips Hue lighting and Arlo cameras will also be featured.
NPR CEO Jarl Mohn announced that NPR will be the primary news source on all smart speakers, Apple’s upcoming HomePod included. With smart speakers in 20 million American homes and podcasts reaching 67 million pairs of ears each month, there’s room for podcast networks to make a move in the space, as well. But listeners beware: Forbes notes that there’s also room for marketers to wedge their way in to leverage smart audio technology for advertising.
IT services firm Unisys sees potential for businesses to leverage voice technology by building personal voice assistants into corporate networks.
Unisys VP Paul Gleeson told Investopedia that many millennial employees are already using their own private voice assistants, and those assistants have already learned their owner’s language, culture, moods and accent. In the same way that some employers have a bring-your-own-device policy, Gleeson believes that corporate America will soon start to see bring-your-own-virtual-assistant programs that leverage the relationships employees already have with their virtual assistants.
Across the pond, Germany will apparently see no such thing. In a survey of internet users ages 18 and older, only 14 percent reported using Apple’s Siri — and that was the most popular digital assistant. Google’s Assistant and Microsoft’s Cortana clocked in at 11 percent usage, and Amazon Echo didn’t even crack double digits, landing at just 5 percent adoption.
Respondents said they were concerned about sharing their usage data with device operators and about the security of their digital information in a landscape of hackers. Only 10 percent said they would consider using a digital assistant for something as sensitive as banking.
However, voice-activated devices may have an in if they are linked to compatible smart home products, which, in a separate survey, 85 percent of respondents ages 18 to 35 said they would consider buying.