The not-quite human voice that emanates from your phone or GPS or other device is, more often than not, female. It's an obvious pattern, and one that many have claimed has a simple technical explanation: Female voices are easier to understand. The only problem is that it's not true.
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Siri, Cortana and Alexa are robotic personal assistants, but they are also women. They live in your pockets, their skinny smart phone bodies executing your every command. They are intimate with you. But they are also, as Microsoft VP Joe Belfiore said at the Windows 10 keynote last week, "a member of your family."
Yesterday, Amazon announced Echo, a Bluetooth speaker slash voice-controlled personal assistant, an omnipresent Siri that sits in your living room and answers whatever questions you might throw at it. So, clearly, Amazon thinks that voice control is cool enough to warrant a standalone product. I'm just wondering who actually uses the damn thing.
For most of us, Siri or Google Now (or Cortana, if you swing that way) is a minor help at best, a first-world solution to the first-world problem of not being able to text and drive. But as Judith Newman illustrates today in a heartfelt and heart-warming piece in the New York Times, Apple's digital assistant has become a lifeline for her autistic son.
If you really want to be able to emulate the characters in Apple's promotional videos, then you need to be able to tell Siri to "call mum" and "email dad." Thanks to the custom label field built into iCloud contacts, you can assign any kind of relationship to people you know. Tell Siri about your best friend, your boss, and your arch-enemy and you can control the virtual assistant more easily with your voice.
Cortana is Windows Phone's answer to Siri and Google Now: A voice-activated artificially intelligent personal assistant with an only slightly off-putting robot voice. Technically, she's still in beta on Windows 8.1, but PhoneBuff is here to show us 50 things Cortana can already do.
Siri was a forward-thinking addition to iOS when it was introduced in 2011. Then Google and Microsoft implemented their own (better) contextually aware virtual assistants to help navigate you through your day. But there was always room for improvement, and the original creators of Siri think they take it even further.
It's a day ending in "y", which means Microsoft is looking to loosen Apple's stranglehold on the smartphone market again. This time it's hammering Siri for not being as awesome as Redmond's new voice assistant, Cortana. But in its haste to crow about how drop-dead awesome it is, Microsoft has forgotten one very important piece of information.
Voice control is a super convenient way to control stuff with your phone, at least when your AI isn't just shouting error messages at other computers. Googolplex makes it even better by unlocking Siri to let her control your stereo, your thermostat; honestly, just about anything.
Cortana is the newest member of the virtual assistant family, so we thought we'd get the whole crew together for a chat. Turns out getting a sit-down between Siri and Google Now is not only funny but also a great glimpse at how the world will work after the machines finally take over.
Windows Phone 8.1 is here, and with it comes not only a notification centre(!) but a brand new Halo-flavoured voice assistant. But how does Cortana shape up against her competitors, who have a year or two of experience on her? Surprisingly well.
It's all well and good being able to call upon your own pocketable Siri butler, but I don't remember Bruce Wayne's buddy Alfred relying on a Wi-Fi or mobile data connection before he could stitch up his crime-fighting boss. Apple's aware of the limitations that a mandatory web connection brings to Siri functionality, and it seems to be looking to rectify it with a new purchase.
Microsoft hosted its BUILD conference overnight, where we saw updates to Windows 8.1 that will make it more usable, as well as the debut of Cortana: Microsoft's virtual voice assistant. Don't get too excited though, Australia. You'll be waiting at least until next year to get your hands on Microsoft's "Siri-killer".
While we were all focused on sensors that fit on our wrists, Apple was quietly winning 38 patents for a system of sensors as big as a house.