We Know Alexa, But What About Google Assistant?

Everyone seems to be talking about Alexa when it comes to Smart Home Assistants as hers is the name that everyone seems to call when asking for help around the house or for answering questions. Perhaps this is because Alexa is more closely associated with home assistance while those of us who remember are more likely to associate saying “OK Google” with voice activated phone searches. If you Google “does anyone still use Siri?” (the iPhone’s progenitor to voice activated assistants) you’ll find that the novelty wore off almost instantly and by 2016 approximately 2% of iPhone users still asked her to do her tricks.

So while Alexa is on everyone’s lips Google is still producing a range of Smart Home Automation devices which are geared toward efficiency and security. You’ll probably have seen in the news recently that Nest devices won’t work with Google’s Home System from this summer onwards. That is an over-reaction, all Nest home security and environmental controls will still work perfectly, however, you will have to connect your Nest goods via the Google Home app rather than the Nest app which it ships with. You certainly won’t be left high and dry if you’re a Nest customer.

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What’s The Story With Google’s Assistant?

If you have an android phone you may have already been interfacing with some iteration of Google’s Assistant for several years. If you’ve ever been too busy to use your hands, but needed information and said “OK Google, how do I get to Sainsbury’s?” or said “Hey Google, show me pictures of kittens” (and who hasn’t!?) then you’re already an experienced Google Assistant user.

Because that’s all it takes. Say “OK” or “Hey Google” and it starts listening for instructions. Google’s language analysis is now well advanced over its competitors and can follow several complex linguistic challenges which any child could understand, but computers really struggle with.

Linguistic challenges include context. Google’s Assistant can ‘turn off the light’, which seems innocuous, but other smart assistants will need to be informed which specific light you mean. Google’s application can also follow a string of instructions, for example ‘OK Google, turn off the lights and put the heating on too’ contains ‘off’ ‘on’ and the word ‘too’ which could easily be mistaken for the number 2. According to machine learning, this is an incredibly hard thing for a computer to understand, and Google’s assistant seems to have cracked it more elegantly than other devices on the market, such as Alexa or Echo.

As well as contextual understanding, it also allows you to have an ongoing conversation, so you don’t have to use the ‘Hotword’ (the spoken trigger that starts these devices listening) every time you want to have the assistant do something. It also recognises different voices, which is great for access to shopping, games and parental controls over adult content. Read more