From “Alexa, play Mohammad Rafi songs” to “Alexa, tell me a joke” to “Alexa, how does a dog bark”, I was surprised to see the excitement of people around me when I bought the Amazon-developed, AI-powered personal assistant, in late 2019. Even when I am too lazy to pick up my phone, I depend on Siri to make a call or send a message, or even check the weather outside. And just like this, we may find several examples firming the point that artificial intelligence, in general, and AI-powered personal assistants, in specific, are silently sliding into our lives.
There could be several factors including technological advancements, increasing popularity and demand of smart devices, search for more convenience, and more that can be attributed to the rise of AI-powered personal assistants, which in the last couple of years has brought massive changes in how we interact with our gadgets and manage our daily lives. From Apple’s Siri to Google Assistant, these AI-powered software are integrated into a wide range of devices, including smartphones, laptops, smart speakers, and even cars that help in increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of our daily tasks.
You do not need complicated menus or a set of commands to interact with them. You can simply interact with these AI-powered personal assistants naturally and intuitively. Furthermore, these virtual assistants can even adapt to your habits, preferences, and needs, and use this information to provide more personalized and relevant support.
And there are lots more! Let’s take a tour of the ultimate AI-powered personal assistants.
Taking the top spot in the list of the most popular AI-powered personal assistants – Apple’s Siri – was released in 2011 and is now available on all major Apple devices powered by iOS, iPadOS, macOS, watchOS, and tvOS. The American tech giant has also integrated Siri with a range of services including Apple Music, Apple Maps, and Apple TV. Users have the option to choose either a male or a female voice for Siri and even the accent of the voice assistant can further be customized. Apple offers six varieties of accents American, Australian, British, Indian, Irish, and South African.
Siri can help you easily manage daily tasks hands-free and with just a voice command you can ask it to make a call, send a message, set a timer, reminders and alarms, ask for directions while driving, play music, ask for calculations, schedule appointments, and more. Siri can even announce messages for you on Apple AirPods. The Apple AI voice assistant is further designed to offer proactive suggestions like texting someone to inform them that you are running late for a meeting, etc. It can even adapt to your language, searches, and preferences.
Apple, which has a reputation for providing the best services without leaking users’ data, says that Siri is “the most private digital assistant” and keeps your information secure. Meaning, what you ask the voice assistant is not associated with your Apple ID. Also, Apple Neural Engine makes sure that the audio of your requests never leaves your device unless you choose to share it. The Tim Cook-led company claims that it does not share Siri searches with advertisers.
It is no doubt that Siri has become an integral part of the Apple ecosystem and as technology continues to evolve, we will likely see Siri becoming even more sophisticated and offering even more value to its users.
From kids to the elderly, everyone loves Alexa. The AI-powered virtual assistant developed by Amazon was introduced nearly a decade ago in 2014. The most common way to get your hands on Alexa is through a range of Amazon devices like the Echo, Echo Dot, and Echo Show. However, you can also use the digital personal assistant to control third-party devices such as smart devices like smart bulbs, smart displays, smart doorbells, home entertainment devices, and more.
Just like Siri, Alexa uses voice queries, natural language processing, and machine learning algorithms to process requests like creating a to-do list, playing music, making a conversation, and more. Apart from this, with the AI-powered personal assistant you can make calls, set an alarm or a reminder, add items to your Amazon shopping cart, stream podcasts, play audiobooks and even get real-time updates about weather, traffic, news, etc. Alexa is also integrated with a range of Amazon services, such as Amazon Music, Prime Video, and Amazon Shopping, making it easy to access and control these services using voice commands.
To have a customized experience, Amazon offers multiple language options for its voice assistant. One of the interesting features of the virtual assistant is Alexa Skills, which the company says are like apps for Alexa that enable you to perform everyday tasks or engage with your content naturally with voice. From news and weather updates to games and productivity tools, Amazon provides a wide range of skills for a more customized experience. ESPN, Spotify, Apple Music, Disney, etc are some of its featured partners. Apart from this, you can program the personal assistant to recognize specific phrases and commands.
In terms of security, the company says that Alexa and Echo devices are designed with multiple layers of privacy and security. You can view, hear, and delete your voice recordings, review and manage your smart home device history, see and update the Alexa Skills that you’ve granted permission to access specific data, and much more.
Launched in 2016, Google Assistant, or what we normally call OK Google, is one of the famous and most advanced AI-powered personal assistants that use natural language processing and supports both voice and text input. The virtual assistant by the American tech major Google is available on a wide range of devices, including smartphones, tablets, smart speakers, smartwatches, smart displays, and even cars. You can access Google Assistant with a long press home on Android, Ok Google, or a squeeze on Pixel phones.
The personal assistant lets you do a wide range of tasks like making a phone call, sending a text message, searching online information, scheduling appointments, setting reminders, taking you to places by giving directions and even getting real-time updates about the weather, status of your flight, and more. You can shuffle your favorite playlist with Saavn and Gaana, get the latest news from TOI and NDTV, or play Bollywood trivia with BookMyShow. From art and lifestyle to business and finance to health and fitness, Google Assistant can perform over a million actions and all this in multiple languages!
You can also use and manage various Google services such as Google Maps, Google Calendar, and Google Play with Google Assistant. It is capable of integrating with third-party services and can further be customized to recognize specific phrases and commands for a personalized experience.
In terms of privacy, Google Assistant has strong, in-built security features that automatically work to protect you from a wide range of threats online. Google claims that it lets you choose what to share with your Google Assistant, delete your activity on the virtual assistant, and more. The Sundar Pichai-led company says that it never sells your personal information including your audio recordings. However, in some cases, it does give information to the government that satisfies applicable laws.
Next in line is Cortana which is an intelligent and versatile AI-powered personal assistant developed by another leading name in the tech industry – Microsoft. Cortana is available on Windows 10 PCs, Microsoft Surface tablets, Windows mobile, Windows Mixed Reality, Amazon Alexa, and more. The American tech giant first unwrapped Cortana in 2014 and five years later shifted its focus and functionality to a more specialized tool that is integrated with other Microsoft products and services, rather than as a standalone virtual assistant competing with the likes of Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.
Cortana, which can be activated by a voice command or by typing in a search bar, performs a variety of tasks like sending emails, making calls, scheduling appointments, keeping notes, managing the calendar, playing music, setting time and location-based reminders, providing weather updates, etc. You can also access some third-party services like LinkedIn and Uber using voice commands. Microsoft’s AI-powered personal assistant has a tight integration with Microsoft Office and with the company’s other services, making it an integral part of the Microsoft ecosystem. Due to this, you can easily access and manage files and documents on your device and even join a meeting in Microsoft Teams or find out who your next meeting is with.
One drawback of Microsoft’s personal assistant is that its productivity skills in Windows are currently only supported in the English language in the United States. Microsoft announced in 2019 that they would be ending support for the Cortana mobile app for Android and iOS in several countries as it shifted its plans to position the personal productivity assistant as a more specialized virtual assistant, focused on helping users manage their work-related tasks and interactions.
The company then decided to integrate Cortana into Microsoft 365 productivity tools such as Outlook and Teams and has also been working on integrating the AI-powered personal assistant into other products and services, such as the Surface Headphones. However, if you are signed into a Windows account with a mailbox that is located outside the U.S., you can still ask Cortana for limited tasks like definitions, calculations, etc.
Going by the saying “better late than never”, South Korean tech giant Samsung first introduced its AI-powered personal assistant Bixby in 2017. The digital assistant is available on a range of Samsung devices, including smartphones, tablets, and smartwatches, making easy manageability of daily tasks and accessibility of information. Samsung says that the more you use Bixby, the better it will become at adjusting to your needs. Meaning, the AI software learns, evolves, and adapts to what you like to do, and gives you a more individualized experience by remembering how you interact with it.
You can ask Bixby to perform a wide range of tasks for you like setting reminders, making a call, texting a friend, taking a picture, playing some music, providing directions, and controlling smart home devices. Samsung’s AI-powered personal assistant has deep integration with Samsung devices and services, such as Samsung Pay, Samsung Health, and Samsung SmartThings. For example, if the devices are connected to SmartThings, you can request Bixby to change TV channels, switch off the lights at night, turn on the air conditioner, and even find your SmartTag.
Another interesting feature of Samsung’s virtual assistant is Bixby Vision, which uses image recognition technology to provide more information about the object that your phone camera is seeing. It can identify the product and give you its details, prices, availability, and more. Next time, if you are in a foreign country and need help with the shops’ names or food menus, you can use Bixby Vision to translate the text in real time.
In terms of privacy, Samsung says that just like its other apps, Bixby also first needs your consent to use the microphone or camera. You have the option to check and manage the data accessed by the personal assistant in the ‘Settings’ app. Furthermore, the company claims that your voice data is kept private as Bixby immediately converts your voice to text and deletes your voice data.
|AI-Powered Virtual Assistant||Developer||Launch Year||Primary Platform||Availability|
|Siri||Apple||2011||iOS, iPadOS, macOS, watchOS, tvOS||Widely used in several countries across the globe|
|Alexa||Amazon||2014||Amazon Echo, Fire TV, Third-party devices||Widely used in the United States, India, and some other countries|
|Google Assistant||2016||Android devices, Google Home, Third-party devices||Widely used in many countries|
|Cortana||Microsoft||2014||Windows 10, Microsoft Surface, Microsoft smartphones||Primarily used in the U.S.|
|Bixby||Samsung||2017||Samsung smart products||Primarily used by Samsung smart device owners|
1. What is an AI-powered personal assistant?
An artificial intelligence-powered personal assistant is a software or an application program that understands natural language voice commands and completes tasks like making a call, sending a text message, setting an alarm or a reminder, playing music, and providing the information requested by the user.
2. What are examples of AI-powered personal assistants?
While there are several AI-powered personal assistants available, Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant, Cortana, and Bixby are some prominent names in the category. Some other examples of AI-powered personal assistants include Hound, Socratic, Youper, Fyle, etc.
3. Which virtual assistant is considered the best?
Every AI-powered virtual assistant has its own set of features that makes it unique. Apple’s Siri, Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Microsoft’s Cortana, and Samsung’s Bixby are some powerful and versatile digital assistants that make day-to-day tasks easily manageable.
4. Can AI-powered personal assistants be customized?
Yes, AI-powered personal assistants can be customized based on users’ needs and usage. Users can create custom commands and phrases, set their preferred language, and more.
5. Are there any privacy concerns associated with using virtual assistants?
Yes, some privacy concerns associated with using AI-powered virtual assistants include data collection and storage, potential security risks, and unintentional recordings of private conversations. However, companies have privacy settings that allow users to control how their data is used and stored.