Artificial intelligence and voice-based computing are likely two of the main components of the smart devices of the future, and Amazon’s surprisingly popular Echo is certainly one device to beat. The home assistant can offer fast responses to some of your immediate needs, like playing music, or giving you the information you require the most, including weather, traffic, sports scores, to name just a few.
To many people, the Alexa assistant that powers Echo is about as robust as Siri. Apple’s voice-assistant that resides inside the iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, Apple TV, and iPod touch, can easily do the same things. But Alexa does things better and faster than Siri not because Amazon is better than Apple at processing voice requests, but because the devices offer vastly different experiences.
What Amazon has managed to achieve is to train users to think differently about voice-controlled computing when having to use a static, home device like the Echo.
“First and foremost, as I noted in the original post, the Echo is always listening,” Siegler notes. ”There is nothing to pull out, no button to push. Yes, with the iPhone 6s line, Siri is also always listening. But the key difference is the hit rate. Saying ‘Alexa’ always seems to work. Saying ‘Hey Siri’ appears to work about half the time or less, in my experience.”
Furthermore, Alexa always sits out in the open in your house, readily waiting for your commands. Meanwhile, the iPhone isn’t always placed in the same position. That means it might not hear your voice if you keep leaving it in different places, and it might not respond. Even the Apple Watch, Siegler says, isn’t reliable enough to offer a steady Hey Siri experience. “These low hit rates and slow speeds effectively train every user not to use Siri in this way,” he says.
Siegler argues that a vocal-only device is necessary “to force the paradigm shift in getting people comfortable talking to these devices,” and Alexa is the kind that gives you no other options of interacting with it than by using your voice. It’s not that Siri did it first, it’s that Alexa is more efficient at doing what Siri did first.
The success of the Echo did not go unnoticed. Google announced Home, a clear Echo alternative that will be infused with its unnamed assistant, and Apple is rumored to be working on a similar device that will bring Siri to your home – you know, other than iPhone (or iOS devices), Apple Watch, and Apple TV