Voice or personal assistants on smartphone platforms happen to be a regular these days as all the top platforms from Android to iOS to Windows Phone and BlackBerry have theirs, or are soon to do so. On Windows Phone, I have Cortana and it has been simply amazing to use (If your device runs Windows Phone 8.1 you may activate Cortana by changing your device region and language to the United States).
Coming with Cortana activation is Quiet Hours, which works much like Do Not Disturb on iOS devices and sets a silent profile on your phone which can be adjusted. With the assistant apps available right now, you can set alarms and reminders, listen to messages and emails, launch applications with a command, ask simple questions and have them answered, get weather related reminders and so on.
Some have even more advanced abilities like fulfilling a tasks with apps (Stock app, and some third party apps). For instance, you can tell Cortana to fetch a Wikipedia article of someone or something and it uses the installed Wikipedia third party app to do so and read it out, it can also give you sport or finance related info via the Bing Sport and Finance apps.
Google Now and Cortana also have the added abilities to give you proactive information or tasks not explicitly asked of them, such as bringing you stock quotes, games results or news on your areas of interest, reminders based on emails you have received etc.
Cortana appears to be ultimately customisable, that is you can decide what you want it to have access to without having it guess based on your frequent usage, unlike Google Now that makes presumptions based on what you search for and your browsing habits. Siri has its own charms too, like Cortana, it has some sass and humorous responses configured if asked certain questions.
But what I really think makes a smartphone assistant tick is its voice capabilities, both the abilities to talk to you and also to listen. As far as listening is concerned, Cortana has been massively woeful in my use case. Its listening capabilities are about as well implemented as that of a forest parrot, it can hear what you say but it can’t understand. Initially when I started using it, I find myself having to continually shout and repeat myself, the stress was not worth it.
Later I found out that whatever you want to say to it, you can type to it also, it made using it somewhat easier. Concerning talking, it seems to be quite okay, I find myself liking Jen Taylor’s voice and it did not sound as much a robotic drone as i expected.
Eventually the novelty wore off and coupled with the inconveniences associated with using it such as switching your device’s region to US and the associated consumption of data that didn’t help much. I had it on briefly during the World Cup excitement where it predicted a lot of matches correctly but eventually, I disabled it and went back to my simple Bing Search.
I miss it once a while, but I have not been compelled to switch it on again. Cortana is neither ready for me yet, nor I for it. Maybe when it is officially introduced worldwide I’ll take another look.
All in all it can be said that the experience was quite liberating. How has your experience been with the assistant that comes with your operating system? Do you use it often? Do you use it at all, or was it a novelty that wore off after the initial excitement?