Artificial intelligence assistants can give you the news, order you a pizza and tell you a joke. Here is a top-level breakdown to help decide which assistant (aka tech company) to go with.
Amazon is the category leader, but first things first…Alexa is the name of its operating system. The actual product that listens to your voice commands and plays music is the Echo.
The original device resembles a Pringles chips canister in either black or white and sells for about $180. It has seven microphones so it can hear you from across the room with a speaker that can fill a room with 360-degree sound. The $50 Echo Dot is about the size of a hockey puck with the same microphone array but a smaller speaker.
Amazon’s newest device is the Echo Show ($230), which features a 7-inch video monitor with a front-facing camera. This allows you to do tasks like make video calls or see a live camera feed from the nursery or your front door.
All of these products work with smart home devices such as cameras, lights, fans, thermostats and more. Amazon has thousands of “skills” that can assist and entertain you, and most third-party manufacturers are regularly adding skills to allow Alexa to control them.
For those who live and breathe everything Apple, you are going to have to wait a few months until you stand in line for that company’s new speaker, the HomePod. Announced in June, it will arrive December 2017 and feature voice control, Siri intelligence, remote access and home automations.
The 7-inch tall pure white or gray speaker will have six microphones to pick up voice commands, and the speaker specs—complete with an upward-facing woofer and seven tweeters—are impressive. And why not, as Apple knows how to do music. Designed to work with an Apple Music subscription for access to over 40 million songs, HomePod may be aiming to replace your A/V receiver and bulky speakers.
In typical Apple style it is priced above the competition at $349. But if Siri is already your best friend then price should be no object.
Though Google seems to rule internet search and mobile phones, their in-home assistant is playing a bit of catch-up to Amazon’s Echo devices.
Google Home is a bit smaller than the original Echo, and the speaker is just as good. It can pull info from your Google account to keep you informed about your calendar and traffic commute. It can control some of your smart home gadgets along with your TV and speakers if you have Chromecast video or audio streamers.
Though the $130 Home device currently falls behind the number of controllable skills in comparison to Alexa, I would recommend this as more of an entertainment device and personal assistant, especially if you’re already invested in Google services.