Digital assistants take our work, are practical and easy to use. But what are the so-called voice services anyway? What can you and what not (yet)? Hermann del Campo, Chief Technology Officer of startup Multicast Media, has tested it.

The “Voice Services” find their way into our living room. It’s very reminiscent of science fiction when you see the users in their home talking to one of these boxes and even answering those boxes. But these are not just toys or useless gadgets, but voice-controlled digital assistants who can help us in the home.

Put simply, these wizards are a Bluetooth speaker equipped with microphones and a small Wi-Fi-enabled computer (to process the content) and the corresponding software engine from the manufacturer, be it Amazon, Google, Apple or Microsoft ,

Alexa & Co: Voice Services Test

Amazon Echo

Amazon Echo is one of those smart speakers from the online giant Amazon. First on the market, he was able to quickly gain a large number of users. After the release in November 2014 (USA), the speaker also came to Germany in October 2016 and quickly gained in popularity. Alexa, the brain is called behind Amazon Echo. The basic functions, such as weather forecasting, playing music, as well as general information, can be supplemented by small extensions, here called Skills. There are already more than 1,200 available skills available on the German skill platform, ranging from smart homes, to information and finally to entertainment. Amazon Echo has found its strengths in a healthy mix of artificial intelligence and sonorous speakers.

 Finds space on any kitchen table – Alexa from Amazon. Photo: [/Caption]

Google Home

Google introduced its own voice service at the 2016 I / O conference: Google Home. The system works on the basis of the Google Assistant.
In the summer of 2017, the smart speaker is also to come to Germany and here Amazon Echo offer the forehead. The enhancements to the abilities are called Google Actions. Unlike Amazon Echo, Google focuses more on artificial intelligence than on the quality of sound and audio. In daily use, you quickly realize that Amazon Echo reaches its limits when you ask questions build on each other. Google Home definitely has the advantage here, it understands even more complex issues without problems. Unfortunately, Google Home lacks the platform to manage and use actions that Amazon Echo already has.


 Based on a test run of 5,000 questions on factual everyday information. Percentage split of answers and questions answered 100% correct. [/Caption]


Apple Homepod

Unlike the iPhone inventor Apple approaches the voice services, as recently presented in June 2017 at the Apple Keynote. Apple has long been an artificial intelligence in the portfolio with Siri. Siri works on almost all Apple devices and is supposed to be used in the HomePod. The HomePod will be for release only with iOS devices to use and play only content from Apple as an audio source. A range of functions like the Amazon echo devices you miss.

Furthermore, Apple does not rely primarily on artificial intelligence with its digital voice assistant, but rather on high-quality sound. The Apple HomePod should have sensors that scan the current room to give the user the perfect sound experience. The HomePod was released on 09.02.2018 in the USA, Australia and UK. In the first quarter of 2018, it should also be published in Germany.

Microsoft Cortana

Microsoft Cortana shoots completely out of the frame with its Artificial Intelligence: Microsoft does not even plan on producing their own Voiceservices. They take their artificial intelligence “Cortana” and build it into the smart speaker from Harman & amp; Kardon and HP, thus avoiding the battle in the hotly contested market of voice assistants.

Microphones that can listen all the time

The technology behind the Voiceservices is the next step into the future and already inspires many. But before buying such “Smart Speaker” you have to be aware, you get microphones in the house that can listen all the time (unless you turn them “mute”). Business algorithms analyze the questions and commands to continually improve the customer experience or feed databases.

However, we do not want to paint the proverbial devil on the wall here. Indeed, these language assistants are touchpoints. They get a signal, check in the cloud what that command says, and trigger an action on the device. Meaning, content from a radio station played by Alexa and Co is NOT readable by US systems or databases.

 Listen to general questions, weather and music the users are most interested. Photo: Statista [/Caption]

The next step towards the future

Despite the privacy and security warnings, this technology is the beginning of a new era. After analogue, via digital touch operation, the trend is now in the auditory controllable operation and thus allows a variety of other options. The user can use his voice to execute the commands without having to press a button or visually display. These machines are getting better.

I ask Siri, Alexa and Co – and they answer. Always more precise. And that means that more and more people will use this type of communication. Recent studies predict that by 2020 – in just over two-and-a-half years – half of all searches in the United States will be via voice services. Still ridiculed as trend products, these voice-assisted assistants certainly have potential for global distribution.