Siri has some catching up to do.
As the day-one Google I/O keynote came to a close Tuesday in Mountain View, California, it was clear that the tech giant had left the right impression on the developers in attendance: Specifically, one of awe. Of particular note was the wide range of tasks handled by Google Assistant — tasks that, at present, Apple’s Siri could only dream of (could Siri dream).
Want Google Assistant to make a phone call for you? Perhaps book a haircut appointment by having an actual conversation with a real human? No problem, that feature was demoed today and will be available to users “as an experiment” in the coming weeks.
And that’s not the only Assistant-related news that Google announced today.
“Thanks to our progress in language understanding, you’ll soon be able to have a natural back-and-forth conversation with the Google Assistant without repeating ‘Hey Google’ for each follow-up request,” explains a Google press release.
And it’s not like this is some Google black magic — Amazon made a similar functionality possible with Alexa.
Importantly, Apple announced a limited version of this at last year’s Worldwide Developer’s Conference, but that’s cold comfort when Siri still struggles to understand many requests in the first place.
Oh yeah, and six new voices are coming. But wait, there’s more.
Google Assistant will also soon help you navigate within Google Maps “so you can get information while keeping your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road,” and, on mobile, will “give you a quick snapshot of your day with suggestions based on location, time of day, and recent interactions.”
These are all real-world applications that people might actually use, and they put Siri to shame.
I mean, can you imagine Siri making an entire phone call for you? Like, not just dialing a number, but calling a human and having a full conversation with them? No, of course you can’t, because for the most part Siri is useless junk.
Sure, Siri is really good at super simple stuff like setting your alarm, or unexpectedly dropping profanity, but a punctual foulmouth isn’t going to revolutionize smart assistants.
Google Assistant, on the other hand, is on its way to doing just that. Maybe that’s why Apple hired John Giannandrea, Google’s top AI exec, earlier this spring.
Either way, Siri continues to lag behind Google Assistant, and today’s keynote emphasized just how wide the gulf between the two assistants really is.
The ball is in Siri’s court. Now we just have to wait and see if it can figure out what to do with it.