Virtual assistants for your home

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Exercising regularly to stay fit is the topmost New Year’s resolution for many. However, every year, most of us fail miserably at following it. This year, however, has been quite different for me. Siri, my personal virtual assistant (courtesy iPhone), seems to have made its personal goal that I achieve my fitness target. It does everything for me—wake me up early, play the right music for me while guiding me with my workout schedule and then keep a calorie count for everything that I eat. Life with Siri is bliss!

Ranging from Amazon’s Alexa to Google Home, Apple’s Home Kit to Facebook’s much awaited M and Microsoft’s Cortana, we have a lot of options to contemplate and choose from based on our needs. While Apple’s Siri is great at handling emails and setting up appointments, it is pathetic in giving directions or updates on traffic conditions to a particular destination. Google’s OK Google, on the other hand, is amazing with directions and traffic updates. Nothing can beat Amazon’s Alexa when it comes to music. It has mastered the art of playing and suggesting the perfect songs.

Let’s now take a look at a few of these artificial intelligence empowered virtual assistants available in India and discover how useful they are in managing your routine household chores.

Amazon Alexa
Alexa is regarded as one of the most viable personal assistants available in the market today. From playing your music to managing schedule, it can do it all. The way Amazon’s engineers chose its name is also quite interesting.

Amazon Alexa (Source: www.businessinsider.in)

One of the intriguing Star Trek inspired reason is that they wanted Alexa to know everything—exactly like The Library of Alexandria, the keeper of all knowledge. Another reason was the unique sound the combination of soft vowels and the alphabet X brought about.

Benefits. Alexa must be the first product you get when you start creating your Smart Home. Getting and Echo from the available range will be the best bet. Ease and flexibility of the Echo ecosystem are amazing. The products can be plugged in anywhere and are easy to set up. Echo Dot is one of the cheapest home controller speakers in the market today. Alexa has more than 10,000 skills and is evolving further at a fast pace. It is highly compatible with both Android and Apple devices.

Challenges. Configuring Alexa app for a few third-party products, both for Android and iPhone smartphones, can be quite challenging. Alexa may not be able to respond to a few of your queries within the expected time frame. At times, it is slow to respond. The Echo speaker quality is average. Alexa can’t function from your phone, you need a speaker. Amazon doesn’t take data responsibility for third-party devices configured with Alexa; companies have access to your data and may use it as required.

Google’s Assistant
You may ask your Google Assistant questions on any topic. It is like Google help, always there whenever you need some information.

Google Assistant (Source: https://labs.xda-developers.com)

Benefits. Its greatest benefit is the power of Google search. Google’s assistant can probably provide answers to almost all of your queries as it has access to massive and supreme data of Google search. Google’s smartphones and speakers work on the latest Android versions. The associated hardware is moderately priced.

Challenges. Third-party products, especially for home automation, are mostly Alexa compatible. Saying Ok Google to activate the assistant may become boring for users. Audio quality of Google products is not very good. Also, Google collects your data.

Apple’s Siri
I have been using Siri for the last couple of years. I am impressed with its increasing abilities. It takes care of my calendar, books a cab for me, plays music based on my preferences and helps me find relevant answers through a quick web search.

Siri (Source: www.idownloadblog.com)

Benefits. Apple takes privacy very seriously. Even the third-party devices use encryption for data transfer and management. Siri can be integrated with Apple’s Home Kit to increase its functionality. It is quite easy to work with.

Challenges. Because of the higher security and privacy checks by Apple, there are not many devices that support Siri. Also, most of the Apple products are quite costly.

—Nidhi Arora, executive editor, EFY

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