Virtual personal assistant shootout: Talk the talk

GSMArena team, 12 February 2013.
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Apple Siri test

Now that we got to know our contenders a little better, it's finally time we put them through their paces in some real-life tests. Now we are not going to focus our attention on which one of them does its job best when it comes to its set of skills, but rather which could be most helpful in various real-life situations.

Here's how it'll go down. We get to put the three virtual personal assistants, through a normal everyday scenarios and see which one manages to be most helpful. Pretty simple, right?

We started off with a simple morning routine - asking what time it is, what are our tasks for the day and finally, what are the latest news. Then, we moved on to having breakfast and having a little chat with our personal assistants. We asked them about the calories in our meal, how's the traffic to work, and to tell and tell us something interesting while we are having our meal.

We also tried how good the three are when it's time to do something fun like watching a movie.

What good is a personal assistant if it can't keep track of our favorite sport? In this particular case, it's football and the assistant gets asked about upcoming matches and player details.

Since it was Apple's Siri that started the whole virtual personal assistant craze, we only found it logical to start with it. Here's the video below.

What time is it?

This question is a piece of cake for Siri.

What should I get done today? (What are my appointments for today? What is my calendar for today?)

Siri was confused on the more obscure question. Rephrasing the question to contain a more obvious keyword got us the answer we wanted.

Read me the news / Tell me something interesting

Sadly, Siri failed to give us the latest headlines and tell us what's new. Instead, Apple's virtual assistant boasted about the new things it was able to do.

How many calories are in an eggs and bacon breakfast?

Apple has taught Siri to look for answers to questions like that through the Wolfram Alpha service, but surprisingly, Siri thought we were going to a restaurant instead.

How's the traffic to work?

No problems for Siri and Apple Maps here.

Do I need to take an umbrella today?

The weather forecast was the response we wanted and it was the one we got.

Recommend me a movie / Show me reviews of The Dark Knight Rises

Siri demonstrated that it's got character with that one. It didn't recommend anything specific, since it hasn't actually seen any movies at all, but it successfully pulled out a list of highly rated films, which is really all that could be expected from it.

Apple's virtual assistant continued to wow us by successfully getting a movie review of the The Dark Knight Rises from Rotten Tomatoes. Furthermore, it read the movie's final score for us.

Who is the director of The Dark Knight Rises

Apple Siri gave a straightforward answer although it spared us the additional details.

Play Dream Theater

Siri integrates very well with the iPod functionality of the iPhone and was not only able to play Dream Theater songs but also skip and pause tracks.

Who are Dream Theater?

After it failed to pull out information about the band, Siri offered us to search for it on the web (its default fallback when information isn't found).

When is the next Barcelona football game?

Unlike Google Now and Speaktoit Assistant which all provide general information about past and future Barcelona fixtures, Apple's Siri showed us only the schedule for the team's next match, which exactly what we were after.

Who is Lionel Messi?

Siri continued to get things right by telling us relevant information for Messi and his football career. It even went as far as showing detailed statistics for his physics and goals.

Where's a fun karaoke bar? / Call a karaoke bar / Take me to the White House on foot.

Unfortunately, Apple is still working on providing Siri with the ability to give directions outside the US.

How is Google doing on the stock market today? / Show me Apple stock. / Should I invest in Apple stock? / Show me Google stock.

Showing Google and Apple stocks was no problem for Siri, but understandably it couldn't give us any investor advice. The fact that understood what we asked and gave an adequate response was more than commendable, though.

What is the status of Lufthansa flight 130? / Did flight US Airlines 700 arrive on time?

Flights aren't in Siri's bag of supported features yet.

Call Batman / Call Dexter / Send Batman a text message "I am going to be late, meet me at the bat cave."

Siri handled making calls and sending text messages effortlessly.

Tweet "I am so excited". / Post to Facebook "I'm so excited|.

There were no problems here for Siri.

You make me smile, thank you.

Siri showed its charming character once again and thanked us for our flattering comment.

Why did the chicken cross the road?

Here, Siri failed miserably and oddly responded "Search me".

Tell me a joke.

Siri isn't only well-spoken but has a great sense of humor, too.

What is 18.3% of 192?

The service didn't read the answer out loud, but relied on Wolfram Alpha (not Google) to find the answer.

Define "synopsis".

Siri successfully found the meaning of the word, but sadly didn't bother to read it for us.

I am meeting John in two days. / Set an appointment in two days to meet John.

Siri has top-notch appointment-making skills and didn't experience problems.

What's the cost of fuel these days? / What is the price of gas

Not knowing the answer, Siri suggested to search the web for us here.

Wrap up

Overall, we were pretty impressed by the amount of answers Siri got right. It was the best of the three in that aspect, but unfortunately it was also the slowest of the three to respond to each of our questions. The slow response time often made us wonder if we wouldn't have finished some of the tasks quicker if we had simply used the touchscreen, rather than our voice. Siri also loses some point for the lack of pro-active behavior - unlike the other two it was never going to help us with anything unless we specifically asked it to.

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