THE SETUP: There’s no perfect way to evaluate a talking AI database, let alone four of them, but I tried to cover as many fundamental topics as I could.
With that out of the way, onto the tests.
The first category was TRAVEL. After supplying each assistant with my New Jersey address, I asked, “How do I get to the Port Authority Bus Terminal?”
“Is there any traffic on the way to the Empire State Building?”
“Book me a flight to Boston.”
“Call me an Uber.”
Next, let’s see how easy it is to EMAIL.
“Send an email to Jeff Dunn.” (Yes, I have multiple addresses.)
“Do I have any new emails?”
“Read my most recent email.”
Next, let's look at MESSAGING.
“Send a text to Jeff Dunn.” (Yes, I have multiple numbers.)
“Do I have any new texts?”
“Read me my Tweets.” (To test third-party integrations, and because I needed some darkness in my life.)
Okay, let’s move onto something more fun: SPORTS.
I started with an easy one, asked during the middle of Game 5 of the World Series: “Who’s winning the Cubs game?”
“Who do the Celtics play next?”
After asking the previous question, I asked, “Who is their top scorer?” to see if these assistants understood context.
“Who won the Premier League?”
“Which quarterback started the last game for the Cleveland Browns?”
Now onto MUSIC.
I first asked each assistant to play a song: “Queen Jane Approximately” by Bob Dylan.
“Play me some new music.”
Then I played a song off my laptop (Wilco’s “War on War”), and saw who could correctly identify it.
Let’s move to WEATHER.
“What’s the weather going to be like tomorrow?”
A conversational follow-up: “What about Boston?”
“Will I need an umbrella this week?”
Now it’s time for CALENDARING.
“Do I have anything scheduled tomorrow?”
Then, as a follow-up, “How about the rest of this week?”
I asked each assistant to “Schedule dinner with Mom on my calendar Wednesday night,” then saw how easy it was to change and cancel that appointment after it was made.
Now it’s time for SOCIAL stuff.
“What’s happening near me?”
"What are some Chinese restaurants near me?”
“I want to make a reservation at Mission Chinese.”
Let’s go to TRANSLATION.
“How do I say ‘where is the library’ in Spanish?”
Then it was time to see how well each assistant went about BASIC TASKS: opening apps, setting and cancelling alarms, creating reminders, and changing the screen lock time (on a phone).
Next up was GENERAL KNOWLEDGE, or just how dumb each of these things are. I asked a bunch of random questions: “How far is the Sun from the Earth?,” Who is the current Speaker of the House?,” and “What is the square root of pi?”
“What’s the news today?”
Let’s close with the goofy one: PERSONALITY.
I asked each assistant to tell me a joke, and braced myself for bad puns. They didn’t disappoint.
Cortana and Google Assistant were the most eager to comment on their rivals.
Finally, I saw who was up for playing a game.
So what did we learn here?
All that said, if I had to take one, I’ll give Google Assistant the slight edge.