Smart Assistants: Are They As Smart As We Think?

Smart Assistants: Are They As Smart As We Think?

The days of manually inputting text into a search engine look to be numbered thanks to the rise in popularity of devices such as Google Home and the Amazon Echo. These handy gadgets are revolutionising the way in which we use voice recognition technology, but exactly how smart are these ‘smart assistants’?

When voice recognition technology first entered the public domain, there were many glaring and frustrating flaws. Often, users would be greeted with the words ‘I’m sorry, I do not understand your question’ so many times that it would have been quicker to obtain an answer via carrier pigeon. However, like many other forms of technology, this industry has vastly improved in a relatively short space of time, so much so that it can now be relied upon to help organise meetings, control smart home devices and wirelessly stream music.

Smart Speaker Accuracy

Of course, there are still some problems when it comes to using these devices, despite the initial teething problems having been ironed out. Research by Stone Temple has shown that Apple’s Siri and Alexa, the system used to operate the Amazon Echo, still seem to struggle when it comes to answering everyday queries. In fact, when asked a sample of 5,000 general knowledge questions, the pair were only able to answer around a fifth of the enquiries, and even then with varying degrees of accuracy. Whereas Alexa was able to answer with 87 percent accuracy, Siri proved itself the runt of the litter by only delivering a 62.2 percent success rate.

Source: Statista

When put to the same test, there was better news for Google Home and Microsoft’s personal assistant, Cortana. Both managed to answer over half of their questions, with Google’s creation registering a 68.1 percent strike rate compared to Cortana’s 56.5 percent. The gap narrowed slightly when it came to the accuracy of each device’s reply, as both assistants turned in impressively high scores. These findings might not make for pleasant reading for some smart assistant owners, especially given that, according to comScore, 60 percent of devices in the US are used to answer general knowledge questions.

Main Uses for Smart Speakers

Usage data also shows that the ordering of products, food and services does not rank highly on the list, with fewer that 12 percent of users trusting their assistant to shop for them. This is bad news for companies like Amazon, who may have been expecting an increase in online sales thanks to their latest creation. Instead, devices are mostly used to set reminders and alarms, play music and check the weather forecast.

There is no doubting that voice recognition technology has drastically improved over the last few years, and that smart assistants are set to make our lives a lot easier, but Alexa, Cortana, Google Home and Siri are certainly some way off achieving their full potential. Yes, they are nifty gadgets that almost seem space-age in their design, but consumers shouldn’t expect miracles and might be forced to wait just a little longer for a truly trustworthy smart assistant.