At one point, not too far in the past, theworld was full of assistants. People whose job it was to schedule meetings,take calls and generally take care of someone else’s chores so they could focuson their core job.

These days the need for human assistants ismuch lower. Personal assistants are a luxury reserved for the elite. You canthank computer technology for this trend, since it’s now pretty easy to manageyour own time and automate many tasks that needed the human touch before.

Still, there’s room for improvement and thanksto AI technology everyone can have a virtual personal assistant. With each daythat goes by these software services become smarter and more useful, so thatyou have to put in less effort to manage your day and interface with yourdevices. While we only had a limited number of assistants to choose from atfirst, these days you’re spoilt for choice.

AI Assistants in a Nutshell

In case you have never worked with one ofthese assistants, or are unsure of what they do, here’s a quick rundown.

AI voice assistants mainly accept input byvoice. Many of them listen constantly for a trigger word, which makeshands-free use possible. If that’s not possible, you simple tap an icon to sayyour piece. You’ll find them in smartphones, smart speaker, smart TVs and other“smart” internet-connected devices.

What do people use them for? The exact featuresets vary, as we’ll see below. However, most allow for internet searches, mediaplayback, message dictation, scheduling and alarms. Depending on how well theyare integrated with the hardware in use, you can even control things likevolume, Bluetooth and WiFi.

One of the most impressive uses of these voiceassistants is as part of a smart home system. This allows you to control thingslike your thermostat, garage door and other connected devices just by speakingto the AI! Now, let’s look at some actual assistants and what they have tooffer.

The Usual Suspects

These AI assistants are ones which most people have at least heard of. They are pioneering services backed by some of the largest tech companies in the world.

Since almost all assistants are cloud-based, these four come with a lot of advantages, not to mention the cutting edge machine learning algorithms either developed or bought by the big players. You almost certainly already have one of these available on your phone, tablet or smart speaker.

Siri

Siri is the product that put the whole idea of an AI voice assistant on the map. This assistant first shipped with the iPhone 4S and has featured in every Apple mobile device since then. Obviously you can only make use of Siri on Apple hardware, but at the same time Siri isn’t the only game in town on iPhones anymore either.

In terms of capabilities, Siri has actuallystarted to lag behind the likes of Google and Amazon, but a slew of recentupgrades to iOS and deep integration with Apple’s ecosystem are strong.

Apple has recently opened Siri up to appdevelopers, while also introducing a feature known as Siri Shortcuts. These arelike custom macros you can set up with your own voice triggers, making Siri oneof the most versatile assistants out there today.

In terms of natural language abilities, Siriisn’t bad at all to use. However, compared to Google Assistant, Siri doesn’tseem to understand more complex phrasings and more nuanced speech. In terms ofactual recognition Siri is great, but there isn’t quite as much brain as therecould be.

That’s not to say that Siri can’t be prettysmart. The assistant will now do things like suggest text messages to peopleyou have an appointment with if you’re going to be late. Siri can alsoautocomplete text messages you are writing intelligently and natively interactwith most Apple apps, such as Calendar and Apple Music.

Siri has now also spread to Apple’s smart homeproducts and devices like Apple TV and the Apple watch. The most recent versionof MacOS also brings Siri to the desktop. So if you are very invested in theApple ecosystem, it ties them all neatly together.

Finally, it’s worth noting that Apple hasdeveloped their own home automation platform and, obviously, Siri is central tothat system.

Google Assistant

The Google Assistant , despite the rather unimaginative name, is a powerful AI that’s available on just about every Android device on the market. Powered by Google’s powerful algorithms, this software is eerily intelligent.

Moreover, Google has shown off some incredible AI features that will be part of Assistant in recent months. Including the ability to voice-dial people and make appointments on your behalf.

One of GA’s biggest strengths is that it’sbeen more open than Siri for longer. So you’ll find it nicely integrated withservices like Samsung SmartThings and Netflix. It’s also made its way to a widerange of devices, such as smart TVs, Google’s AI speakers and wearables.

The Google Assistant is notable for its powerfullanguage abilities, access to almost all Google services and wideinteroperability with solutions from other companies. All attributes thatsomewhat put it in contrast to Apple’s Siri. The Google Assistant is alsoavailable on just about every platform in one form or another, so there’snothing stopping you from giving it a whirl.

Cortana

Cortana is named after the AI character from the Halo series of video games. She’s Microsoft’s answer to Siri and is also integrated with the Windows 10 operating system. Microsoft doesn’t really have a stake in phone hardware anymore with the failure of Windows Phone, so Cortana is available as an app download on both the iOS and Android platforms.

The biggest advantage that Cortana has over the rest is how she bridges the gap between your mobile devices and Windows machine. The vast majority of users have Windows computers, so getting synced parity between your phone and computer is really a very useful boon.

Carrying on with this integration theme, Cortana also works perfectly with other Microsoft products such as Office 365 and Outlook, which also have massive user bases.

On the other hand, Cortana is tied to Bingsearch. It makes sense, since that’s Microsoft’s search engine. However, Bingis no Google, at least not yet. So your mileage may vary when it comes tosearch functionality.

Get it on Android and iOS

Alexa

Alexa is the offering from online retail giantAmazon. So it has deep integration with Amazon’s products and services. You canbuy anything from groceries to another Alexa smart speaker with just a fewwords, which is a brilliant business strategy from Mr. Bezos.

There’s little doubt that Alexa rules thesmart speaker market, but on non-Amazon mobile devices she’s not quite thatpopular. Still, if you do install Alexa on your Android or iOS device there’s alot to like about this peppy digital personality.

Alexa has plenty of “skills” that let her dothings like be a great kitchen helper, read bedtime stories, track calories andlocate your phone.

As a general voice assistant, Alexa is alittle less impressive, but if you are heavily invested in the Amazon ecosystem,well, you’re probably already using Alexa.

Get it on Android and iOS

The Underdog Contenders

If going along with the mainstream isn’t quiteyour thing, plenty of smaller developers are taking a swing at being your nextAI assistant. In order to stand out from the crowd, these assistants usuallytry to do some things that are unique or some things particularly well.

Hound

Hound is brought to you by the some wonderful people who gave us SoundHound. The app that can listen to the song currently playing and tell you who it is. A need so common, that an entire business could be built around it.

Hound obviously drops the “sound” bit of thename and offers general purpose search, but with the same sense of innovationthat SoundHound is known for. The main selling point is their advanced naturallanguage technology. Speed, accuracy and natural speech are the three pillarshound is built on.

Get it on Android and iOS

Bixby

Like Siri, Bixby is exclusive to one particular hardware platform. In this case, it’s only available on Samsung phones. Some phones that feature Bixby actually have a dedicated physical button to summon this digital servant, which is either a bonus or an irritation, depending on your point of view.

When Bixby first launched users had to dealwith plenty of teething troubles, but it’s a much more robust piece of softwarenow. It’s main advantage is that Bixby is better-integrates with Samsung phonehardware.

Despite joking about how annoying the Bixbybutton can be, Bixby itself has really matured over the years. We’re are nowinto the third phone generation that supports Bixby and this digital butler hasa few tricks up its sleeves.

With more than 3000 voice commands under thebelt, it’s almost possible to control your entire phone experience just usingyour voice. There’s also Quick Commands,which are essentially voice macros. You can set up a series of commands thatcan be triggered with a single word or phrase. Basically, Bixby is the mostdirect competitor to Siri, so if you own one of the Samsung phone models thatfeatures Bixby, it’s worth giving it a shot instead of heading straight to theGoogle Assistant. Besides, these two assistants live happily along one anotheron the same phone.

Robin

Robin has been marketed as the Androidequivalent of Siri, but at the same time this if officially beta software.Which means if you give Robin a try you’re helping shape the assistant intowhat it will one day be.

Right now, it’s still a pretty basic service.You can do internet searches, get the news, weather updates and so on. You canmake calls, text and initiate navigation. The overall consensus seems to bethat Robin is a neat voice assistant, but that it needs some more polish tobecome more reliable and functional.

Robin was built first and foremost to be apodcast and internet radio control system for driving, but it’s growing intomore. If it keeps improving as it as however, this could be the true Sirialternative for Android users.

Get it on Android

Lyra Virtual Assistant

Lyra is one of the most serious contenderswhen it comes to knocking the top voice assistant products from their pedestals.It’s a truly smart, innovative tool that promises to do great things. If enoughpeople catch on to it.

It’s a cloud-based, multi-platform assistantwhich you can use on your desktop, laptop, tablet and phone. There are bothAndroid and iOS apps, so most mobile users are covered.

Like Google Assistant, Lyra has been designedto be conversational. In other words, Lyra can communicate over multiplequeries, remembering what you said before and applying that information to thecurrent part of the conversation.

The developers of Lyra have put a lot ofeffort into natural language processing resulting in an intelligent,multilingual tool that’s right up there with the big players.

In terms of functionality, Lyra covers most ofwhat you’d expect. General queries, weather, social media, navigation and othersimilar areas are amply covered. Lyra also has an incredibly friendlyinterface, which makes it an underdog worth rooting for.

Get it on Android and iOS

Resistance is Futile

It seems that AI digital assistants are hereto stay and if they keep getting better the way they have been, that’sexcellent news. Once you have found one that works for you, it’s worth reallydigging into what’s possible to automate.

Using your phone while driving in particularis a game changer. Many assistants let you make calls, change music tracks anddictate text message all without taking your hands off the wheels or your eyesoff the road.