The Smartest Virtual Assistant — Alexa, Cortana, Google or Siri?

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An Echo Dot device by Amazon sits on a table
Zapp2Photo /

If you’re like many folks, you own a device with an interactive assistant or you’ve considered buying one. After all, Amazon says it sold millions of Alexa devices last year alone.

The technology behind such devices is commonly referred to as a “personal assistant” or “virtual assistant,” and often described as “intelligent.”

Stone Temple Consulting Corp., a marketing agency, recently set out to determine which assistant is the most intelligent. Before we get into the findings, though, let’s take a look at the four assistants that were tested.

Intelligent personal assistants

Alexa is the assistant within various devices sold by Amazon, including the voice-activated Echo and Echo Dot. Last year, Google introduced its Alexa competitor, the Google Assistant, which comes with Google Home, a voice-activated speaker.

Perhaps the best-known intelligent personal assistant is Apple’s Siri, available on certain Apple devices. Microsoft’s Cortana, available on certain Microsoft devices, is Siri’s equivalent for Windows.

Stone Temple Consulting notes that all four of these assistants can help take actions, like ordering flowers or booking a flight, on your behalf. That capability was not tested, though.

Comparing intelligence

Stone Temple Consulting tested the four assistants’ smarts from a knowledge perspective. The agency collected 5,000 questions “about everyday factual knowledge,” posed them to each assistant, and examined their responses.

For example, the agency looked at how often the assistants responded verbally to a question, how often they answered correctly and completely, how often they didn’t understand the question, and how often they gave a wrong answer.

Stone Temple Consulting concluded that Google “has the clear lead in terms of overall smarts” but noted that Microsoft’s Cortana is “pressing quite hard to close the gap, and has made great strides in the last three years.”

Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri are limited in terms of smarts because they aren’t as good at systematically scouring the internet for responses to supplement their knowledge bases.

Note that Google and Microsoft are tech companies that offer internet search engines — Google Search and Bing, respectively — while Amazon and Apple are not.

Do you own a device with an intelligent personal assistant, or are you considering one? Let us know which one and why — comment below or on our Facebook page.

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