An App for Everything – the Rise of the Virtual Assistant

The list of apps entering our lives is endless and of course we all love our gaming apps (my personal favourite at the moment being online casino games). And with developments such as Google Now and Siri, the major technology players are locked in a battle to provide us with the best, ever present, ever helpful, all singing and dancing personal assistants. These personal assistants of course reside in our smartphones or tablets – and so are always easily to hand.

Reception and use of these handy little aides so far has been sketchy, as the technology is somewhat less than 100% reliable – the main problem being that the voice recognition software has difficulty in noisy locales or in coping with the multitude of different accents, dialects and inflections that make up the diversity of human speech.

However, the technology is definitely getting better. And with innovations like Google Glass on the Horizon you can only wonder how this drive to provide us with an always on, virtual PA with evolve, (Although what the take up on Google Glass will be is anybody’s guess with some commenters already referring to users as glassholes, and positing the idea that Google Glassers will illicit the same type of internal groans that perpetual wearers of Bluetooth headsets already do with many of us.

Being an Android user myself I’ve been trying out some of the latest features of Google Now – especially the enhanced reminders – which have nifty little features like being able to remind you to do things the moment you reach a particular location for example. These reminders are separate from those within Google Calendar and I find they’re a lot more usable for those little things you need to remember at a particular place or time, as oppose to actual meetings and the like.

These reminders are more discreet and less insistent than the Google Calendar type, with no faffing about dismissing and deleting etc. However the new Now reminders are lacking in some respects. There’s no repeat option and it would be good if you could get a reminder to activate when you’re leaving a location as well as when arriving at one.

In the Google Now vs Siri battle people seem to pretty much agree that both do many of the same things, but that each is slightly better than the other at some things and slightly worse than its rival at others

Generally GN seems to fare better with retrieving relevant information and Siri seems better at integration with other apps. GN also now has its enhanced reminders, search and cards. And Siri of course has its humorous responses to various questions such as “What is the meaning of life?” Siri’s response to this existential imperative will variously return answers such as; “42”, “chocolate” and “I don’t know …but I think there’s an app for that.”  More internal groans – Don’t give up your day job Siri!