Voice-Recognition Technology: What’s Available and What’s Next?

For those of us who wish we could have a personal assistant, voice-recognition technology is the next best thing. Say it and it shall be done!

But not all voice-recognition technology is the same, nor has this technology even remotely scratched the surface.

Many smartphone users marveled at the introduction of Siri, the somewhat sassy personality who recognizes our questions and gives the answers (most of the time) for iOS devices. But now Siri has competition, and voice-recognition technology is moving off of our mobile devices and onto our desktops and into our homes. Here’s a rundown of the current voice recognition devices on the market, as well as their capabilities.

Smart Home Assistants

Alexa is the name given to the voice on the Amazon Echo. The Echo has been praised for its integration with other home technologies, including “smart” lights, plugs, and locks. It also connects to Amazon devices. Alexa can provide basic information like the time and weather, but can get a little stuck on tough trivia questions. As the mogul for online shopping, Amazon will likely use Alexa to make shopping even easier, but this capability has not yet been developed to its full potential. According to Gadget Salvation, however, you can link the Echo to not only your Prime account for discounts, but also to multiple third-party vendors to take care of your entire to-buy list.

Also entering the ring for voice-recognition home technology is OK Google, which can play music and answer far more random questions, as one would expect from a product developed by the reigning search engine company. Although at the time of its launch, OK Google was lacking some integrations, you can now schedule appointments, create “notes to self,” ask math questions, post questions and even ask for translations with solely your voice. OK Google is also more aware of follow-up questions, allowing you to have a more natural conversation with this technology.

Learning to interact with this technology can take some time. Alexa, for example, is capable of providing the answers to pretty much any query … if we remember that we can ask her in the first place instead of typing the question into a search bar on the computer. Just imagine that a friend (who also happens to be a genius know-it-all) is in the room and can answer any of your whims from “How cold is it today?” to “How much does the new iPhone cost?” to “When is my next doctor appointment?”

Spend some time exploring the limits of this technology by asking it as many questions as you can think of in about half an hour. It makes for a great party trick if you and your friends are bored on a Friday night.

Siri and Friends

Although Siri was the first and remains the most memorable voice-recognition software for mobile devices, Microsoft and Samsung have notable iterations. Unlike Alexa and OK Google, these voice-integrated helpers have visual aspects to help you find exactly the information you’re looking for.

Cortana is found on devices with the latest Windows operating systems, and you can ask her questions with your voice or by typing in queries. Compared to Siri or the Google Assistant, which is like OK Google for Android devices, Cortana often bungles questions and directs users to Bing searches rather than providing a clear answer.

Bixby is Samsung’s contribution to the world of voice-recognition technology and is relatively new to the market. Bixby integrates with your phone’s camera for additional services, such as translation. Bixby is an effective virtual assistant and can help you set reminders or answer questions. Essentially, Bixby serves to make Samsung more competitive with the other smartphone providers, but does not seem to add any groundbreaking technological advancements.

Compared to its younger “cousins,” Siri offers more precise answers and more sophisticated responses, such as detailed maps when asking for directions. For basic use, all are highly similar, however.

What’s Next for Voice-Integrated Technology?

While no one really knows what’s happening behind closed doors at these highly competitive tech labs, the future looks very “smart.” One possibility for advanced voice-recognition technology is to have integration with virtually all home appliances. Imagine being able to set your coffee maker with voice activation, or to call your Roomba out to the kitchen to clean up a mess. Soon we could be living in a true age of modernity, using voice-recognition for not only our entertainment, but also for day-to-day tasks or perhaps even education.

We won’t know for sure until the products hit the market, but the future is bright!