This is a commissioned work for a UAE-based blog Snappo (http://snappo.ae/) written last August 28, 2016.
Innovations never stop, and before we know it, we are all using robots in everything we do! But before that happens, let’s try to look around and see the pieces of technology that we are already using at hand.
One of the most common pieces of technology used these days is AI or artificial intelligence. The term “AI” might be too overwhelming, but don’t fret! These are easier to understand than many might think. AI nowadays can come in the form of virtual assistant (VA), and two of the most well-know virtual assistants are Siri and Cortana.
Siri is a computer program that works as an intelligent assistant. She is part of Apple’s iOS, watchOS, and tvOS, but before Apple’s acquisition, Siri was an iOS application available in the App Store by Siri Inc., which were supposed to be available for BlackBerry and for phones running Android. All of these were cancelled once Apple acquired Siri. Since then, Siri has been an integral part of all Apple products, especially the iPhones, iPads, and Apple Watch.
How to use Siri- Siri’s ready to use, so users are simply to press the main home button and wait for Siri to pop up. Once there, the user can talk to Siri about anything, and she’s been known to be a good listener. There’s also an edit button, which users can use to type messages to Siri if they don’t want to talk. Its hands-free facility, which could be done by saying “Hey, Siri” is only available when the device is connected to a power source.
Siri’s Functions- Siri’s top functions include searching the web, sending texts and tweets, making calls, opening apps, updating Facebook statuses, suggesting apps and contacts, setting up/altering calendar events and other calendar details, setting alarms, changing phone settings, looking up movie details, directions in Apple maps, public transport directions, nearby attractions/restaurants and so on, playing and identifying music, reading out text messages and unread emails, and showing photos according to date and location. She sure does a lot, doesn’t she?
Siri’s Limitations- While Siri appears very promising, she also has limitations. For example, she can’t send Facebook messages, interact with third-party apps, guess most of what the users want, and pull out information from the user’s email. Unlike its counterpart, Siri does not collect information about its users. Well, perfection is still not a thing even with VAs.
On the other end of the spectrum is Siri’s counterpart in Windows—Cortana. Cortana was introduced to the market two years ago, and it was launched as a key player for Microsoft’s “makeover” for Windows Phone and Windows. It is named after Cortana, a synthetic intelligence character in Microsoft’s Halo video game. It is currently available in English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Chinese, and Japanese language editions, depending on the software platform and region in which it is used.
How to use Cortana – Once enabled, Cortana could be used by saying, “Hey, Cortana,” followed by the command. This hands-free facility makes using Cortana more convenient than Siri.
Cortana’s Functions- Just like Siri, Cortana can do a lot. Apart from it taking over the search part of Windows 10, it can make calls, send text messages, search the web using Bing, show local events, restaurants, and the likes, add/change calendar events, make notes, offer weather reports, tell how long it’ll take to get to home/work, offer travel advice, identify music, check flight status, and set reminders when to talk to a person. Others also say that Cortana jokes! Another edge Cortana has is that it can store personal information, such as the user’s interests, contacts, location data, and reminders among others in the “Notebook.” From these, it can learn a user’s specific patterns and behaviors.
Being in the market for just two years, Cortana shows a lot of rooms for improvement. While it feels like it’s the best when it works fine, it is said to fail more frequently than Siri. It even failed during Nadella’s, Microsoft CEO, presentation last year! Some noted that Cortana’s search results are incompetent when compared to Siri’s, which usually tries and contextualises for more precise answers. Moreover, since Cortana gathers personal information about the users, issues about privacy are also surfacing. (What if someone stole the phone? It has all of my details in it!) Overall, many feels that Cortana needs a little bit of polishing and consistency.
So in the end, when Siri meets Cortana, which do you think would reign supreme?