16
Jul
2012-07-16_00h09_33

The uninformed consumer (read: not you, dear readers) may be forgiven for not realizing Google's voice search/voice assistant/Google Now thing is attempting to compete head-on with Siri, what with lacking a name and not being nearly as anthropomorphized. However, Google's voice powers are, indeed, aimed squarely at making the act of finding and using information far easier than Apple's automaton. In this video, the two go voice-to-voice and...okay, let's not beat around the bush. Siri gets thoroughly trashed.

Now, let's be perfectly clear. When dealing with voice searches and natural language assistants, your mileage will always vary. However, in this head-to-head comparison, it is no contest. Not only did Google pull up results faster, not only was Google able to integrate its own web results directly in the app (Siri often has to launch a browser to accomplish this), but, at least for these tests, Google seemed to be simply better at understanding what the user wants. Of course, Siri absolutely demolishes the competition in the "searching for stallions" category.

Now, we do want to be fair. We may be an Android blog, but that doesn't mean that we don't want to give other platforms a fair shot. So, for fun, here are a couple more head-to-head competitions between Google's voice assistant and Siri.

As you can see from the videos which, again, are hardly extensive nor are they entirely based on real-world needs (reminder to walk the dog may be useful, but how often will you really need to search for how tall Michael Jordan is?), Google simply seems to be both faster and better at integrating information.

Part of the reason is, of course, the Knowledge Graph. When Siri can't find the answer to a question, it turns to Wolfram Alpha first, and then to Google. Google results are typically brought up in a web browser. This is all well and good, but Google has an advantage in this area: Google happens to be Google. It can integrate its own vast databases of information into the app directly. A picture of a scallion can be placed directly into the app, whereas Siri needs to search the web for...what was it again? Pictures of a stallion?

This also lets Google make up some of the ground it loses to Siri in natural language recognition. Google voice search may not be able to translate the sentence "how much should I tip an airport limo driver?" and get a direct answer, but regular old Google searches can because that's how people have searched for that answer. Siri, on the other hand, doesn't have such specific knowledge. At best, it could search the web for pictures of a stallion that information but that ends up right back at Google.

The other advantage Google has here is that, we must assume, speech is being transcribed on the device itself. Google announced at I/O that voice transcription, the feature that allows you to speak words and watch them appear as text in a text box, will now work offline. All the processing is done on the device, instead of on a server far, far away. While Google hasn't outright said as much, it's safe to assume the same process is being done when you perform a voice search. Your phone or tablet converts the speech to text, and then a simple string of text is uploaded to Google's servers, instead of a much larger audio file. This, along with some fancy Google server power, we assume, results in Google's voice search returning information much more quickly, while Siri is left to ask if you'd like to search the web for pictures of a stallion.

Both products are impressive culminations of tech that's spent decades in the oven. Both are also incredibly useful. However, if you were worried that Google's voice search might not be as impressive as you'd hoped, or if you thought Siri might still have the upper hand on natural language recognition, you may find yourself surprised by how Google's voice search performs.

Unless you regularly need to find pictures of stallions. In which case, may I recommend getting an iPhone?

Thanks Crash and Burn Phillip!

Eric Ravenscraft
Eric is a snarky technophile with a taste for the unusual. When he's not obsessing about Android, you can usually find him obsessing about movies, psychology, or the perfect energy drink. Eric weaves his own special blend of snark, satire, and comedy into all his articles.

  • Stephen

    Very Funny, my voice has gone hoarse from all the laughing, pun intended :)

    • Wayne Randall

      okay, alright.. from now on when anybody mentions they made a pun, you must turn in your Android device(s) and move to the other camp.. :P

  • Kenny O

    I've never been a fan of voice control as generally it's been faster to just open up the app or search and just look for what you need. I'm quickly changing my habits using Google Now. It's quick to open and very rarely misses what I am trying to say. One of the biggest challenges I have always faced is getting a voice app to recognize my wife's name, Anezka - Google Now nails it almost very single time.

    • Iucidium

      Jellybeans use of holding on headset button to activate voice search/actions is fantastic.

      • Clint Pedersen

        I learned something new today... Maybe I need to dust off my headset now.

    • archercc

      I miss the search icon at the bottom but I always found Google's voice actions to be faster than actually opening the app. Mapping, navigation, searching google, etc. But then again I am not the best thumb typist either.

    • Clint Pedersen

      I have the same problem with my little brother's name (Kade). Siri and Google both translate it as "Cade". So I can't text or call him using Google Now. However, you can add a phonetic name to contacts. If I add "Cade" phonetically to "Kade" it works like a charm. TL;DR - If you add a phonetic name, Google could possibly get it every time.

  • Tyfo

    I just desperately hope that the improved Google Voice Search will appear on my Samsung Galaxy S3, as the S Voice is laugably bad at times.

    • mesmorino

      Pfft, I haven't even bothered with it at all. It was obviously a gimmick from the start, and not even a very good one at that

  • Martim Cortez de Lobão

    I think Siri beat Voice Assistant for the dentist appointment. "Remind me to make a dentist appointment in 2 years" should set the reminder for 2014. As least that's how I would have interpreted it.

    • Max Barlow

      Well done, Siri can search for stallions plan the dentist 2 years ahead better than Google. Is apple now going to advertise with that?

      • http://twitter.com/rohanXm Rohan Mathur

        No, they are going to sue Google for making a better product.

  • http://twitter.com/ToysSamurai Toys Samurai

    The biggest problem with voice control is that its usefulness drop to very low when people with bilingual background use it -- we often store our information in 2 languages and there's no way the current voice recognition engine can understand them. For example, I have contacts in both Chinese and English, no voice recognition software can tell which language it is listening to.

    • Mastermind26

      Same for Spanish/English. Let's not even mention certain phrases that are Spanglish.

      ;)

    • RajivSK

      Well useful or not, fumbling AI remains one of the funniest things conceivable. Can't wait to try it for myself.

    • squiddy20

      Isn't there an option though, where Google will "learn" your voice, so the more you use the voice search features, the better it becomes? I could've sworn there was something like that...

    • Nicholas Loomans

      Have hope, Samurai. Don't doubt that the engineers are sitting on their laurels, I'll bet they're hard at work and it wouldn't surprise me one bit to see a multilingual option with in a few years.
      I guess the problem is it can't straight up search for what other language you are using without first asking if it misunderstood you. When they work near perfect you may see them try to reckon what language you are using.

  • Perry Ahern

    I think Siri wants a pony.

    Great demos of both in action and the strengths of the new Now system. I can't wait to get my Nexus 7.

    Eric, I think you may be wrong about where Jelly Bean is processing voice queries. While devices can do voice recognition locally now, I believe that it's still processed by Google servers when a data connection is present. I think it's only done locally when there's no connection. I remember reading that there's a difference in processing quality and that Google's servers, of course, do a better job when they're available to the device.

    If that's the case then and queries are being processed remotely, then that's an even bigger win for Now considering they're both being done remotely but much more quickly by Google.

    • Clint Pedersen

      I believe you are right. This is directly from the official Android site:

      "Jelly Bean introduces a new conversational text-to-speech voice in US English, available as both a network engine and an embedded engine via the TTS API."

      • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/eric-ravenscraft/ Eric Ravenscraft

        That refers to text-to-speech, not speech-to-text. What we were discussing is how Google handles the voice queries. Namely, whether or not it converts it to text before sending it over the network to make queries more efficient, or if it transcribes them after reaching Google's servers to make them more accurate. Text-to-speech would have more to do with the results than with the query. Though it is interesting that Google describes that as a network engine as well.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/eric-ravenscraft/ Eric Ravenscraft

      A fair point. And it is, of course, speculation. When running voice searches, it's a question of efficiency versus quality and who knows? I could be wrong. Maybe Google does only use offline voice transcription when no network is available. But, as you say, that only makes the service more impressive, not less.

      Either way, what we can all agree on is that those queries were insanely fast.

      • http://codytoombs.wordpress.com/ Cody Toombs

        I'll confirm that it only does local transcription when a network connection is unavailable (or deemed unsuitable, but I'm not sure what criteria determines that). Google will always prefer to do the transcription on their side, it allows them to collect usage data, determine trending topics, and even provide additional data based on information your device could never have. The other big reason they prefer server-side transcription is that Google's speech processing makes use of sentence structure to provide hints to resolve words that aren't entirely clear in the recording... Our phones just aren't optimized for that type of processing, and it would require a lot of additional data to build an interpretor capable of language hinting.

  • John

    Heh, that iPhone is soo small compared to the Nexus.

  • Mastermind26

    I just wish this was available for ALL android products (to once and for all SHUT apple-heads up!), not just those with JB. TOROPLUS PLEASE!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=667020551 Jose Torres

    in a few months, i can see apple suing google for infringement over this, just to put an injunction from importing and selling phones that have this...LAME!

  • Sven Enterlein

    That just made my day! I wonder if that is reproducible or just a glitch... Either way Siri needs to go back to Voice Command Academy.

  • Christopher Lee

    I'm getting funny looks at work right now because I am absolutely crying with laughter.

    • Sven Enterlein

      Do what I did: SHARE the video with your neighbors! Our IT guy said from now on he'll offer to search for pictures of stallions if he doesn't know the answer to a particular question.

  • Diego Castelli

    Oooohhh so THATS why apple was so concerned on blocking the galaxy nexus sales........
    They must have copyrights on stallion pictures

  • MrRageQuit

    I don't know what you mean. I found those stallion pictures you wanted though.

    • Stormprobe

      It's too bad she was actually looking for scallions.

  • John O’Connor

    Sadly I lost my voice yesterday... So I can't talk to my phone if I wanted to. Happy Birthday to me! LOL

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/eric-ravenscraft/ Eric Ravenscraft

      That sucks man. Being sick on your birthday must suck. Would you like some pictures of some stallions to make up for it?

      • John O’Connor

        No thanks, but some fresh scallions might loosen up the vocal cords a bit.

  • Kindroid

    In all the demos shown so far...Android has beat Siri....convincingly....

  • http://www.facebook.com/JorgeSGTree Jorge Ivan Sanchez Gonzalez

    Doesn't work for me

  • Asphyx

    Google Now is a good start and it does seem to be faster than Suri but it still has a way to go such as being able to call up and launch apps like calendar to see your schedule on a particular day.It can set alarms for you but it will not set appointments into your calendar.
    Getting there but not quite there yet.
    Not sure Suri does any of that either.

    • Alan Tucker

      Agreed, but TellMe has had the ability to launch apps since the first version of Windows Phone!!!

      • Asphyx

        Its only a matter of time the old Voice command could do it so now it's just a matter of Google building those old voice commands into Google now.
        I think they spent so much time getting the search the web part right that they never bothered to put in the command structure they had from the previous VC.

  • Stormprobe

    Give Apple a little time to steal Google's technology to add into their phones. I just hope Apple doesn't sue Google for using Apple's stolen technology.

    • J-MOBILE E. HITE

      I AGREE-100%

  • Bilgediver

    lol, Samsungs S-voice is horrible. I just compared built-in Voice Search on my Droid2Global in a verizon store up against a Galaxy S3 on display, and the sales guy seemed surprised that my Droid 2 Global outperformed the Galaxy S3 with just the built-in Android Voice Search.

  • ari_free

    I think Apple overreached on Siri to make it more 'fun.' They should've focused on using it for calendar appointments and the like instead of trying to out-search Google.