Over the holidays, many of us spent time with friends gossiping about our back-in-the-day memories and past high school peers that we happened to bump into at the hometown bar. But, there was one woman in particular that seemed to be the talk of the town: Siri.
This revolutionary voice assistant introduced to us by Apple (News - Alert) last fall still seems to be coming up in conversation, and for good reason. It’s highly entertaining to see what Siri has to say in group settings when we test her knowledge, accuracy and even psychic abilities with questions like “Am I going to marry Ashton Kutcher?” or “How do I become a millionaire?” But, Siri has also gone on to impress us with her natural language processing capabilities for tasks like finding directions to the nearest gas station, or using our voice to send an on-the-go e-mail to a colleague.
As we enter 2012 with Siri on our minds, Angel, the leader in IVR services and cloud-based customer experience solutions, wants to remind all of us that Siri may be the popular chick in her class, but she wasn’t the first voice assistant to reign the market after all. In fact, since August 2010, Google (News - Alert) has had a voice assistant application of its own running on the Android platform called “Voice Actions.”
According to Angel, Voice Actions possesses much of the same capabilities as Siri, like enabling the user to state specific commands for basic smartphone tasks, but it just doesn’t have the same spark. For example, Voice Actions lacks Artificial Intelligence capabilities, or the ability to provide “intelligent” responses to questions not related to the fundamental commands it knows. In addition, Voice Actions is short of text-to-speech capabilities to speak back to the user and just can’t fathom a multi-step “conversation” with users.
Google is more than aware of Voice Actions’ deficiencies, which is why it is now making enhancements to the application in the form of Majel, which is based on the “Majel Theory.”
Majel’s roots are derived from the voice of the Federation Computer in Star Trek. Accordingly, Majel will mimic the Starship Enterprise’s ability to use a voice user interface (VUI) to interact with just about anything. Instead, however, Majel will not give the user the impression that it is interacting with a “human” but rather an intelligent computer, a significant contrast to Siri, which was designed by Apple to reflect a “personality” and sense of humor in its responses.
According to Angel, the first release of Majel – potentially early this year – will be a simple natural language processing engine in which answers are retrieved from a Google search. A later release will entail the more advanced features, like controlling phone actions and other applications.
Until then, it looks like Siri will continue to stay in the spotlight until another rival or just-as-cool voice assistant moves into town.
Tammy Wolf is a TMCnet web editor. She covers a wide range of topics, including IP communications and information technology. To read more of her articles, please visit her columnist page.
Edited by Carrie Schmelkin
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