The importance of voice assistants in the screenless future is hard to overestimate. We see speech-driven user interfaces as a key component of the next computing paradigm, so it’s helpful to understand empirically where each platform stands today. In February, we compared Amazon Echo and Google Home to see which assistant was winning the race to become the centerpiece of the home. Google Home won that battle, but it was close. For our next digital assistant face off, we tested the three most prevalent digital assistants available for mobile devices: Siri, Google Assistant, and Cortana. This time, Google Assistant came out on top.
We asked the same 800 queries to each assistant that we asked Amazon Echo and Google Home. We graded the queries on two metrics: First, did the assistant correctly understand the query? Second, did the assistant answer the query correctly?
The queries break down into five categories:
- Local – Where is the nearest McDonald’s?
- Commerce – Where can I buy more printer paper?
- Navigation – How do I get to REI from here?
- Information – What is Apple’s stock price?
- Command – Remind me to call Mom at 2pm today.
Google Assistant, the clear winner, understood 99.9% of the queries we asked and answered 74.8% of them correctly. Siri understood 94.4% of the queries we asked and answered 66.1% of them correctly. Finally, Cortana understood 97.3% of the queries we asked and answered 48.8% of them correctly.
By category, Google’s lead in navigation and information is demonstrable, but there’s more parity between Siri and Google Assistant in local, commerce and command related queries. Cortana lagged both Siri and Google Assistant in all categories, narrowly coming in second only in information.
Google Assistant – Dominating Navigation and Information
Google Assistant performed the best in three of the five categories, barely losing to Siri in commerce and command. The bigger takeaway, is Google’s commanding lead in the navigation and information categories. While this might be expected given the company’s focus on organizing the world’s information, accuracy is a critical piece to consumer adoption. Users expect that the information provided by an assistant is accurate. When navigation guidance fails a user, for example, particularly early on in the adoption cycle, the user will avoid using the assistant in the future. In this way, Google’s overall accuracy creates a self-reinforcing cycle where users will go to Google for a better experience if Siri or Cortana fail them.
Siri – Strong Runner Up
Siri performed well across the board, and ultimately came in second place in our assessment. Siri’s ability to interpret user commands accurately sets it apart from the others. Command is an important category for Apple, as it continues to make a push into homes with its HomeKit. By continuing to outperform Google Assistant, Siri offers the best connection between a user’s mobile life and home life, which Amazon will struggle to do without an integrated smartphone platform.
Cortana – Better than Anticipated
While Cortana came in last place, it performed better than we had anticipated, particularly in understanding the query, outperforming Siri in that regard. The trouble was that Cortana is not as well prepared to answer queries. Given its investments in Bing, the company should be especially able to improve information, navigation, and local performance over time. We expect Microsoft to continue to invest in its Cortana platform, as it will be an important part of its AR/VR hardware in the future.
How do Home Assistants Measure up to Digital Assistants
When evaluating the average results of digital assistants versus home assistants, the results are comparable in commerce, and information; however, digital assistants lead the way dramatically in navigation, and also have a strong lead in local and command queries. While these are admittedly apples-to-oranges comparisons, it’s a way to see the areas in which home assistants will likely see improvements next. In the future, we expect to ask Alexa for a traffic update in the morning, and have new directions sent to our phones before we leave.
Future of Digital Assistants
In time, digital assistants will become an integral part of our lives. This is especially true as the range of computing that we can do with our voices expands. Additional inputs, like images, will also expand the digital assistant’s skillset. This week Amazon introduced Echo Look, an Echo device for your closet. Echo Look features a camera that takes pictures of your outfit to make fashion suggestions and catalog your wardrobe. Just as we saw with the smartphone, new variations of hardware will enable broader skills for digital assistants. The screen-less future depends, in part, on natural language interfaces to more easily perform everyday computing tasks. We’ll continue to track the progress of the major players along the road of replacing the touchscreen with easier to use technology.
Disclaimer: We actively write about the themes in which we invest: artificial intelligence, robotics, virtual reality, and augmented reality. From time to time, we will write about companies that are in our portfolio. Content on this site including opinions on specific themes in technology, market estimates, and estimates and commentary regarding publicly traded or private companies is not intended for use in making investment decisions. We hold no obligation to update any of our projections. We express no warranties about any estimates or opinions we make.