In recent years, the Voice Command championship belt has been
exchanged between two major players in the smartphone world.
) kicked things off in the early days of Android with the ability
to search, email, and navigate to a specific destination by voice
with a standard, yet limited, set of voice commands. But upon
introducing the iPhone 4S,
) stole the spotlight with Siri, a virtual assistant whose
understanding of voice commands went beyond "Navigate to" and
"Search for." Siri could ostensibly follow "fuzzy language" and
retrieve, say, the weather forecast if a user asked "What's the
weather like today?" or "Show me the weather, Siri." Unfortunately,
buggy implementation and dodgy search results kept Siri only
slightly ahead of Google's offerings. (See:
Apple Co-Founder Hates Siri, Too
However, Google has proudly worn the winner's belt since unveiling
Google Now and the updated Google Search app. Fast, accurate, more
informative, and able to understand a wealth commands -- as well as
"predict" the information you need based on usage history -- the
superb Google Now-Google Search one-two punch remains the very best
in mobile voice command prowess.
But there's been one thing that Siri was able to do better than
Google Search: conversation. Unlike Android devices that required
all the information in a single vocal search or command, Siri could
be given an action in several parts separated by the app's
responses. So, an email command would go something like:
"What would you like the subject to be?"
"What would you like the email to say?"
"Can't wait to see you for the holidays."
"Would you like me to send the email?"
Not only does this type of interaction allow the user to collect
his or her thoughts while speaking, it also means not losing the
entire email and being forced to start over should one step fail.
This was one of the few advantages Siri held over Google Search.
That is, until a recent update.
Amidst a bevy of new features and improvements, Google Search can
now hold a conversation in a similar fashion to Siri, as
reported by Ron Amadeo for Ars Technica
. Android users can provide open-ended commands and be prompted for
further information. Amadeo demonstrates the new step-by-step
Amadeo notes that there is still room for improvement, but it
proves that Google is closer to a hands-free mobile utopia than any
of the other major players.
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