There are so many AI-powered digital assistants out there these days, we'll forgive you if you've lost track. Hound is an offering from Shazam rival SoundHound, and it's packed with an impressive number of features considering it doesn't have the weight of Apple or Google's engineering teams behind it. Here are five reasons we like it.
1) It's platform-agnostic
You can't use Siri on Android, of course, and Google Now's usefulness is somewhat stunted on iOS, where it can't get its hooks into the deeper parts of the operating system. Hound, in contrast, is available on both Android and iOS for free with matching feature sets. Hound isn't available in Australia yet, but we're hopefully not too far off.
It's also fast despite being a third-party app. You can't do some of the phone tricks that the native apps can (like sift through your email or turn Bluetooth on and off), but whenever you ask Hound something you'll get a response very quickly from the web.
2) It understands complex questions
If your query is a long one, just keep talking. Hound will keep track of what you're saying. For example, try telling Hound, "show me four or five star hotels in Seattle for three nights starting on Friday between one hundred fifty dollars and two hundred fifty dollars a night."
Weather is another area where Hound excels. If you ask it, "What's the weather going to be like in Rome two weeks from now?" then Hound will tell you. And if it doesn't have the forecast information available, it presents the historical averages for the area instead.
3) It understands follow-up questions
Any of your searches can be easily refined with follow-up questions, so you don't have to speak out the whole query instead. To take the hotel example from earlier, you can say "just with wi-fi" or "just with a gym" to have Hound filter the list based on your requests.
You can also add "sorted by lowest price" or "sorted by highest price" on top of your original query, or add location information like "within walking distance of the Golden Gate Bridge." Other Hound voice commands support follow-up questions in the same way.
4) It can combine answers
Ask Hound how many calories there are in 16 apples and 4 bananas, and it will tell you the total. Ask it what is the current stock price of both Google and Apple, and it shows both answers together. Hound isn't easily flummoxed if you ask several questions at once.
Hound can't deal with every multiple query — not yet, anyway — but plenty do work. Try "five dollars in pounds and yen" if you don't want to run each comparison separately, for example. You can edit queries manually if your commands aren't picked up first time.
5) It plays games and music
Hound can perform all kinds of tricks, including estimating Uber fares, calculating mortgage payments and instant translations. There are a handful of interactive games built into the app as well. Try "play Blackjack" or "play Hangman" to get started.
Hound can play music snippets, too, even without access to your music library. You can say "play" followed by a song or artist to start listening. For more on Hound's features, tap the "?" icon to reveal a full list of commands.