UNITED STATES—The idea of autonomous vehicles (and yes it is still just an idea) does not appeal to me, as a car guy. However, automation itself, is not completely unappealing to me.
An automated personal assistant for example is something everyone wishes they had. Something to help you with all your tedious/mundane tasks. Something to help keep your life organized and operating at the utmost efficiency. Something that would do all this without asking for a pay raise, or any pay at all for that matter. Something like Amazon’s Echo. Something like Google’s Home Assistant.
A quick Google or YouTube search (ironically) will show you just how much better Amazon’s Echo has been from the beginning. However, over the last year or so, the rivalry has become much more competitive. While Amazon was first to market, some would argue Google has proven that it is better to be “right” than “first” to borrow phrasing from the journalist’s dilemma.
“What’s the difference between the two?”, you ask. Well, without getting all technical and geeky about it, I can sum it up like this:
Google Home is a child prodigy that went on to attend Harvard, graduating Magna Cum Laude with a degree in Philosophy. After Harvard, this savant is now discovering his liberal arts degree is completely worthless in landing a job in the new service driven economy in which the sheer quantity of your technical skills outweigh the quality.
Amazon Echo, while not as smart as his brother, went on to attend a plethora of trade schools. Now it has many useful skills and can land an entry level job, no problem, but lacks the intelligence to think outside the established paradigm, to be an innovator, a creator. In other words, it will never become “The Boss”. It is also not the best conversationalist, but it really knows how to party.
They are different enough to warrant purchasing both of them, but remember not to play favorites. There are scenarios in which they will eerily attempt to one-up-each other. For example, I began playing music from Spotify on Amazon Echo but when I asked Google Home a question about what artist I was currently listening to, it stole the Spotify feed from Amazon and began playing it through its own speaker. It was unexpected and kind of amusing. Very much a case of sibling rivalry playing out.
Learning how to use each one to its strengths is the key to harmony. Google has become the go-to for shopping lists, given you can share access to a given shopping list among different people. It is also better at taking you step by step through a complicated cooking recipe. It’s knowledge base is far superior as well. I asked both of them, “Who wrote Two Roads to Happiness”? Only Google identified the correct author (my mother, P. A. Quesnoy). Amazon did not really even understand the question.
Amazon, on the other hand handles calendars much better than Google. Amazon can sync all your existing calendars including iCloud calendars while Google can not. Amazon can order items on Amazon.com (only Prime items it seems), and can have food delivered to you from Amazon Restaurants and other restaurant specific apps. Finally, Amazon can be paired with Amazon Echo Buttons which turn the Echo into a game show host. So far the two best party games include Trivial Pursuit Tap and Hanagram.
Where the biggest growth will likely occur with these two assistants is in home automation. Things like turning on your lights, adjusting your thermostat, activating your home security, and controlling your home theater with your voice, are all current activities both assistants can handle. You can probably tell each one to vacuum your house as well, provided you own a Roomba.
I have no problem with home automation. As soon as one of these things learns how to drive a car, however, I will not be happy.