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Artificial intelligence

Google Assistant tops Apple Siri, Amazon’s Alexa in head-to-head test

In a test conducted by investment firm Loup Ventures, Google Assistant was able to answer the most questions correctly

PUBLISHED : Monday, 30 July, 2018, 4:05pm
UPDATED : Monday, 30 July, 2018, 5:46pm

Apple’s Siri correctly answered more questions than Amazon.com’s Alexa or Microsoft Corp’s Cortana in a recent head-to-head test of smartphone-based digital assistants done by venture capital firm Loup Ventures.

Google Assistant, however, achieved the best record among the four digital assistants tested after it answered 86 per cent of 800 questions correctly.

In its annual digital assistant IQ test, Loup Ventures found that the four major smartphone-based digital assistants from Apple, Google, Amazon.com and Microsoft were getting better over time.

It also said all four digital assistants now understand the vast majority of people’s questions – it was just an issue of having the right answer.

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“Both the voice recognition and natural language processing of digital assistants across the board has improved to the point where, within reason, they will understand everything you say to them,” the analysts at Loup Ventures wrote.

Apart from Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana and Amazon’s Alexa were tested through their apps on an iPhone. Google’s Assistant was tested on the company’s own Android smartphone, the Pixel XL.

Technology giants around the world are racing to prove that artificial intelligence-powered digital assistants that can fully understand and hold a conversation with a human are a thing of the near future.

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Voice-enabled shopping using digital assistants are also expected to gain more traction in the next few years. A survey conducted this year by OC&C Strategy Consultants said voice shopping in the United States was expected to jump to US$40 billion annually in 2022, up from US$2 billion at present.

“Voice computing is about removing friction,” the Loup Ventures analyst wrote. “One new feature that accomplishes that is continued conversation, which allows you to ask multiple questions without repeating the wake word each time.”

The Loup Ventures study showed that Siri answered 79 per cent of questions correctly. Alexa achieved a 61 per cent score, while Cortana recorded 52 per cent.

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The test’s 800 questions, designed to comprehensively examine a digital assistant’s ability and utility, were broken into five categories: local, commerce, navigation, information and command.

“We found Siri to be slightly more helpful and versatile (responding to more flexible language) in controlling your phone, smart home, and music,” the analysts wrote. “Apple, true to its roots, has ensured that Siri is capable with music on both mobile devices and smart speakers.”

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The Loup Ventures analysts, however, said what gave the digital assistants the most trouble in the tests were proper nouns, like the name of a town or restaurant.

“With scores nearing 80 to 90 per cent, it begs the question, will these assistants eventually be able to answer everything you ask?” the analysts wrote. “The answer is probably not, but continued improvement will come from allowing more and more functions to be controlled by your voice.”