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Dignity, grease, and pizza: comparing intelligent assistants

Don't forget about the food!

These days I'd be shocked to see an intelligent assistant demo without some sort of food-ordering demonstration. If your virtual assistant hits the market and it can't order takeout for me, you're doing it wrong.

Because the main players in the virtual assistant space have this functionality (in some shape or form), it's a good means of comparison for the different platforms. Joseph Rosensteel took to his Unauthoritative Pronouncements blog to compare the various assistants.

Google Assistant

A key part of Google Assistant's demo was that it could order things for you through services Google has partnered with, like GrubHub or Instacart. Since this is a platform that permits third party developers, competitors like Postmates or Amazon Prime Now could theoretically integrate the same way …

This kind of stuff excites me. Much like a human assistant flipping furiously through a Rolodex to find the right person for your request, I want my virtual assistant plugged into all the things. But that's only going to happen if Google allows for third-party integrations with competitors. As Joe points out, "Amazon Prime Now seems like a stretch!"

A hand is seen flipping quickly through a Rolodex.

Amazon Alexa

When you add [a] skill, you are prompted to login with a Domino's "EasyOrder" account. Alexa is a thin layer between you and Domino's, like grease, or dignity. … Any Domino's competitor can make an equivalent skill and they wouldn't be impaired by Amazon any more or less than Domino's.

Because Amazon's focus is less about competing with other tech companies by means of hardware, it's pretty easy to see a lot of integrations for all of Amazon's Alexa products. In fact, there are already loads of integrations, and the list keeps growing.

Where Amazon fails to compete with the machine-learning power of Google, it makes up for that in its universal, open nature. Almost anyone can submit an Alexa Skill, and Amazon continues to form partnerships with companies that make home automation products. The joy of "Alexa, turn on my lights and set them to 25-percent" knows no bounds.

Siri

If you tell Siri, "Order Pizza" she provides a list of nearby restaurants with pizza on the menu and their Yelp star ratings. That's it. Tap them to go through a maze of ordering things.

Yeah, Siri could use some work when it comes to third-party integrations. OK, a lot of work, but lucky for us, it's rumored that's exactly what Apple's working on. The company might open up Siri to developers, finally giving us the ability to use Siri as our maestro for all things iOS.

Micky Mouse animates a broom with his magical wizard powers in Disney's Fantasia.

Err, fingers crossed it doesn't end up like that did.

Are you looking forward to third-party integrations? What virtual assistant do you use? Oh! One more question: What's your favorite kind of pizza?

Mikah Sargent is Senior Editor at Mobile Nations. When he's not bothering his chihuahuas, Mikah spends entirely too much time and money on HomeKit products. You can follow him on Twitter at @mikahsargent if you're so inclined.

8 Comments
  • As long as Alexa remains English U.S. only, it remains useless to most people on this planet, alas. Also, that pizza makes me so hangry! :)
  • Alexa is neither English only, or US only. https://developer.amazon.com/appsandservices/solutions/alexa/alexa-voice...
  • RE: What virtual assistants do you use?
    None. Siri's crap for anything outside setting alarms, and the others can't really integrate into iOS, and none of em can make me a decent cup of coffee anyway. RE: What's your favourite kind of pizza?
    My lazy-man kind half-assed pseudo pizza; made with a tortilla wrap as base. Just smother tomato paste, coldcuts, olives, herbs and cheese, and heat over a flat pan on low heat until cheese melts. Done. I'm too broke to afford commercialist synthetic delivery pizza anyway.
  • Just listening to last weeks discussion of a similar topic from last week's ATP. Quickly devolved into what was acceptable pizza for Siri (or whatever) to offer to order. Domino's was ruled out immediately in preference for other mass-market "bad" pizzas from Little Caesar or Pizza Hut (my thinking exactly). Too much trouble to call in an order??
  • Hey Joe, what do you think of Hound, the digital assistant from SoundHound? Personally, I find it more accurate and helpful than any Cortana, Siri or Google's.
  • Why wouldn't you put Microsoft's Cortana into the list? As much as I have experienced it's better than at least Siri in a lot of aspects.. Sent from the iMore App
  • This is just another cry baby rant and clear FUD. Siri itself still has limited functionality for a handful of features as noted on Apple's own website. Siri needs to drastically improve to catch up to competitors, clear and simple. Opening the sdk is a start and hopefully it will push all competition.
  • yum ...pizza.. i go online to my own store via web browser....