Sunday, November 17, 2013

OK Google vs. Siri

In the late 1990s, I used my Mac Clone with Mac OS 8.5 and PlainTalk to dial the modem, get my e-mail, start my web browser, and keep me current without touching a keyboard or mouse each morning.

It seems as though we've gone backwards since Mac OS X and while I have a built-in microphone, I don't use it much.

Then came Siri, with all the canned advertising requests.  It seemed that Siri worked beautifully, if you asked it the correct questions.  As the service became available in Japanese, I tried it both in English and Japanese.  At the time, I thought that Mac OS 8.5 did a better job.

A few times, I've used OK Google with the Google app to show me relevant information and it's not always okay, but it usually understands me and finds what I want.

I was concerned about tornadoes tonight, as the sirens were screaming for a couple of minutes.  Siri didn't know where I was and wanted me to access privacy settings.  I re-stated the request with a zip code.  It told me that it didn't look as though there would be tornadoes today.  Oops, that wasn't what I wanted to know.

The question wasn't that difficult but I suppose it could have been slightly vague.  However, OK Google had given me results for several news articles related to the area a few minutes earlier.

I also asked both for the location of San Jose State University and I got various information from OK Google, and again I got "I don't know where you are." as Siri pointed me to privacy settings again.

I could understand if it had trouble with names, but I saw the text and it had written "San Jose State University" just fine.  Then, it cleared the display and told me about privacy settings.

I disabled Siri again.  I might try it in Japanese again.  There might not be as much confusion, except that I'm not in Japan now.  I just tried OK Google in Japanese.  You must tap the microphone icon, as the "OK Google" phrase does not seem to work, but the results were as impressive as they are in English.

Update 2013.11.26: I saw an announcement today that Honda/Acura have added Siri Eyes-Free to certain models, as Chevrolet did earlier.  I hope those users have more luck than I did.  It's certainly an interesting idea.  My 2012 VW Golf TDI has phone-related voice commands but I don't have navigation as part of the car, so I would imagine that would enhance the experience quite a lot.  Buick's voice control over music seems as childish as their advertising but it might be useful.  I sometimes wish Apple would implement voice search but it would have to deal with multiple languages and they're not ready for that.

Update 2013.12.08: I've been using voice search a bit on the Nexus 7 tablet.  Apple said that Siri required the iPhone 4s' special noise reduction chip and that the iPhone 4, with its more primitive technology from the same company couldn't do the job correctly.  Why is it then, that all these Android-based devices work so well?  I doubt Qualcomm's Snapdragon S4 Pro processor has such technology nor did my (now ancient) LG Optimus S.  Of course, Apple wants you to ditch the old and buy the new, but it's probably not just about the money, Apple's developers probably can't get things to work correctly.  There are occasions where OK Google doesn't work with certain names, even when I'm quite crisp with my enunciation.  However, it seems to work better some days with UK English selected instead of US English--my accent drifts quite a lot.  Using UK English tends to get results from the other side of the ocean, which isn't always helpful.

Update 2013.12.17: I've tried to use the new Chrome plug-in for searching by voice.  I couldn't stop laughing at the horrid results.  It rarely got any of the words correct, and I was using it on a rather powerful MacBook Pro with a 2.6 GHz i7 processor, 16 GB of RAM, and an SSD.  Imagine the results for a lower end machine with a 5400 rpm hard drive.

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