The “virtual assistant” wars are heating up, and we may find casualties in the war; at least for the short term. Around our house, we’ve pretty much settled on Echo (aka Alexa, or Alexandria or anything similarly close if you like the SNL “Silver” version) However, now there’s competition on my phone.
A couple years back, I finally got used to saying “OK Google”, and speaking things instead of (mis)typing them. I was even patient enough to put up with my roughly 50% success rate (50% for me, your mileage may vary).
Then, Samsung decided to enter the fray with Bixby on their Galaxy S8 and S8+ phones… sort of. They announced it, but when the devices came out, it wasn’t really ready, and only partially worked. Partially as in “not very much at all”. So I didn’t bother with it. But I never bothered to disable the button either, so every now and then I accidentally hit the button, and “Bixby Home” would appear on the screen, and proudly inform me “YOU’RE AT BIXBY LEVEL 1.” (Yes, in all caps). Meanwhile, Samsung has been working in the background improving the program.
Though I’ve gotten used to the Google Assistant, one of the things that’s always bugged me is that I have to mispronounce my wife’s name Gini, to get it to call her. If I said “Call Jenny Parsons Mobile” (the way it’s pronounced) Google would dutifully call my nephew Jamey Parsons. Not good. The first time I whispered sweet nothings into the phone, he panicked. (OK, I didn’t really do that, but you get the point). I learned that if I said “Call Jeannie Parsons Mobile” Google would dial the phone correctly. Most of the time.
Well, yesterday, I decided I was tired of that “YOU’RE AT BIXBY LEVEL 1” nonsense, and decided to give it a shot; especially since Samsung has improved the app. I set up the “trained” command for it to call Gini when I said it normally (though Bixby SPELLS it “Jenny”, I still get to say it properly). It dialed away. She was at work and couldn’t talk (they have a rule about cell phone use). I told her that was no problem, I was just testing out the phone. I didn’t need technology to know that she was shaking her head, probably snickering, as she hung up.
I then set it up to call our home phone, which we almost never used. I knew no one would answer it, since Gini’s mom Betty is too senile to figure out a phone any more. So, I was able to call it while I experimented with speaker settings and such. Probably drove Betty a bit nuts.
So, now I have three “virtual assistants”. Then there’s Cortana on my computer. It’s been four years since it’s release, and I still haven’t spoken a word to her/it. Pretty soon, I’m going to have to have an app that reminds me which one I should be using and when I should be using it. I can see it now – “Alexa…” and the soothing voice says “I’m afraid I can’t do that Herb, you’re in your car”.
Actually, I suspect that Bixby is going to have to be pretty impressive to replace the Google Assistant on my phone, but hey, I’m halfway to BIXBY LEVEL 2 now, so who knows.
And now, I see the future battles coming up on the horizon. We use Samsung’s SmartThings home control hub for our home “smart devices”. Right now, it works fine with Alexa, I mean the Echo Dot; however, Samsung is “reaching out”, and installing Bixby on smart appliances. I have little doubt that someday soon, we’ll see a home competitor to the Echo and the Google Home.
I raised four daughters. I joke around that the name for all four of them eventually became KimKrisSaundraKatieYouKnowWhoYouAre. Maybe someday my virtual assistant will be OKGoogleAlexaHiBixby and something will answer…