If you tell Siri, “You’re fired,” she’ll come back with a quavering protest: “But, but…”
That feeble protest may be the best Apple can offer as Amazon’s Alexa gets smarter and smarter and Google rolls out its voice-controlled assistant to the iPhone, an advancement announced by Google’s Scott Huffman during the company’s annual I/O keynote.
Previously, iPhone users could interact with Google’s Assistant through the Allo messaging app. With the standalone app, users can get full Assistant functionality through Allo, including asking questions and controlling smart home devices, without having to type queries and commands into the chat app. It also offers full integration with Gmail.
The app is currently available in the U.S. and supports English, French, German, Brazilian-Portuguese, and Japanese, with support for Italian, Spanish and Korean by the end of the year.
The AI-based voice Assistant is already on more than 100 million devices, but expanding compatibility to Apple devices will unlock a whole new world for this unlikely partner. Third-party products are next, as Google has also discussed a software development kit that will allow third-party hardware makers to integrate the tool into their products.
During the I/O developer conference, Google announced that it’s opening the door for in-app payments with the Google Payment API, which will allow merchants and developers to accept credit and debit payments made from a card that is saved in a customer’s Google Account.
The platform will merge payment methods that users may have already saved in Android Pay, the Play Store, or their Chrome web browser.
Soon, the Assistant will be able to send and receive small payments with a voice command such as “OK Google, send $10 to Jane for pizza.”
Google has yet to specify how users will go about verifying their identity for these types of transactions — whether it will require a PIN, leverage voice biometric authentication or another form of IDV.
Finally, wrapping up voice activation news from the Google conference, the company announced that users of Google Home will now be able to make voice calls – finally bringing Google Home into alignment with the Amazon Echo and Siri. Plus, the Home can now offer voice computing on more entertainment services, including Spotify, HBO Now, Hulu, Soundcloud, and Deezer.
On the way:
Engadget reported that Samsung will be outfitting its Family Hub 2.0 refrigerators with the Bixby AI assistant, finally tapping into voice-control technology that has been distinctly absent from its Galaxy phones. Fridge owners will be able to ask about the weather, search for recipes, or play music while they cook.
However, Samsung said it’s not ready to make a formal announcement, so the smart fridge may remain a thing of the future for some time to come.
Meanwhile, Wired reported that Microsoft’s Cortana is leveling up to join the ranks of Amazon Echo and Google Home with the introduction of its Invoke smart speaker. What makes it stand out from the rest? Invoke can make and receive Skype calls, which sets it apart for now, but not for much longer, as the Echo and Home will soon have call functionality as well.
Microsoft may have missed the boat in terms of developing a smartphone, but it still intends to spread its software network far and wide, and the Invoke will play a role in that. The company also plans to open up its Cortana Skills Kit to developers so they can build for its assistant.
The Invoke won’t be available until fall, which is a long time to wait compared to, say, June 28, when Amazon is slated to start shipping its new Echo Show. The Show works the same way as the Amazon Echo but with the addition of a seven-inch screen that allows users to make video calls as well as viewing media. The feature, “Alexa Calling,” will work on all Echo devices and the Alexa app.
The Echo Show can be used to view YouTube videos, song lyrics, security cameras, photos, weather forecasts, to-do and shopping lists, all without touching a thing.
This new offering from Amazon responds to verbal commands by taking photos or videos of users’ outfits. Users can then check the app to view live previews, capture still photos, survey outfits in their closets, tag favorites and compare styles – with the help, if they want it, of an online Amazon judging panel.
TechCrunch called the $200 vertical camera a “standalone selfie machine.” It combines machine learning with advice from fashion experts to give feedback on outfits (and probably shopping recommendations) as Amazon looks to increase its presence in the fashion and apparel sector.
Not only would the Look know about upcoming trends and popular styles, it could potentially grow to one day include other features – like the ability to take measurements and figure out user’s sizes, or make recommendations about how to accessorize outfits via purchases from Amazon’s site.