SAN FRANCISCO — When Google launched its now distinctive digital assistant in 2016, it was not yet in danger of being an besides-ran.
At the time, Amazon had been selling its Echo smart speaker, powered by its Alexa voice assistant, for more than a year. Apple’s Siri was not yet five years old and familiar to most iPhone users. Google’s main entry in the field up to that point was Google Now, a phone-bound app that took voice commands but didn’t answer back.
Now the Google Assistant — known primarily as the voice of the Google Home smart speaker — is increasingly central to Google’s new products. And even though it remains commercially overshadowed by Alexa, it keeps pushing the boundaries of what artificial intelligence can accomplish in everyday settings.
For instance, Google last year announced an Assistant service called Duplex, which it aforementioned can actually call up restaurants and make reservations for you. Duplex isn’t yet wide available yet outside of Google’s own pel phones in the U.S. Alexa and Siri so far offer nothing similar.
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More loosely, though, the competition is much more difficult to assess. Google claims the Assistant is now available crosswise more than a billion inclination, though galore of those are smartphones whose owners may never have expressed the Assistant’s wake-up phrase, “OK Google.”
Google Assistant doesn’t record users commands by default — differing from Alexa — but recording must be turned on to access some of Assistant’s features, including a popular one that allows it to recognize different users by voice.
Amazon and Google may one-up each other on different prosody, but the real measurement is how well they’ve achieved their goals, aforementioned Gartner analyst Werner Goertz.
Amazon’s deep ties in purchasing make Alexa the go-to assistant for adding items to your grocery list or putt in a quick re-order of dish soap. Google’s decades of deep search technology make it the leader in looking up or respondent questions you might have and personalizing its responses based on what other Google knows about you from your previous searches, your movements or your web browsing.
All that, of course, reinforces Google’s key advertising business, which is based on showing you ads targeted to your interests.
At first, the Assistant on Home mostly just acted as a vocal search engine; it could besides carry out a few extra tasks so much as starting your Spotify playlists. Over time, however, it has added dozens of languages, partnered with more than 1,500 smart home companies to control lights, locks and TVs and learned to identify members of any given family by voice.
It’s besides expanded the number of apps and other companies it works with and affected into Google Maps as a way to send text messages piece driving.
Both Google and Amazon plan further expansions. Last year, Amazon disclosed a number of home appliances with Alexa built in, including a “smart” microwave. At the CES appliance show this year, it showed off a phone-connected device that brings Alexa to cars.
Google countered with updates to its expanding android car system, which got Assistant capability last year.
As Assistant and Alexa get smarter, quicker and more personalized, analysts expect their reach to become broader and more ubiquitous. The speakers, aforementioned eMarketer analyst Victoria Petrock, are “getting people used to talking to their inclination.” Eventually, she says, if you can speak to your microwave and TV and lights directly, you won’t need the speakers — except possibly to play music.
In these emerging areas Google is hoping to outflank rivals with its strong inroads with android smartphones and cars. But it faces competition in galore of these areas not just from Amazon, but besides Apple and Microsoft.