The AI assistant wars are heating up and with last month’s Google event, Google let their gladiator, Google Assistant, out in the ring. While it still has a lot of kinks in its armour (I’ll be penning down my thoughts about it in detail and comparing it to Siri – I use both – soon) that it needs to iron out, it is as good as, if not better, than its competition (and in infamous Donal Trump’s evergreen words, ‘a lot of people are saying so’). Because of the way Google is intertwined into our lives, Google Assistant can do much more than other AI assistants and as my friend, Matt Birchler pointed out a few days ago, it has taken that ‘doing more’ bit to the next level with IFTTT integration.
IFTTT, for the uninitiated, is a cloud-based service which helps create workflows to help achieve your tasks in fewer steps that it’d usually take, has cross-app integration and follows an ‘if this then that’ logic. In day-to-day terms, if I add a date and time-based reminder to my Reminders app through Siri on iOS and want it to show up as a calendar event on Google Calendar, there is an IFTTT recipe (that is what such workflows are called in IFTTT parlance) for that. Now imagine this cloud-based workflow automation service with endless possibilities baked into Google Assistant, a cloud-based AI assistant and those endless possibilities multiply manifold. You can use your voice (and texts, in the future, hopefully) to accomplish almost anything without ever opening (or even downloading) an app. It is very easy for developers to integrate their services into IFTTT too.
As the connectivity options around us improve steadily, services are harnessing the power of a cloud-based approach. Google Assistant and IFTTT are the epitomes of that approach and now work in sync with each other. Siri, on the other hand, given Apple’s extra focus on privacy, is still device-bound. That not only reduces its power in terms of what it can do but also prohibits it from working together with services like IFTTT. There are, of course, ways around that (the example that I gave at the beginning is one of those) but it doesn’t ‘just work’. In addition to Google having deeper access to our data (I hope that sharing everything with Google doesn’t come to haunt us in the future), it’s integrations with services like IFTTT make it more powerful and a serious threat to Siri. I don’t think Tim Cook and his team are going to change their stance on Siri. Let’s see how they improve the service and make it more powerful with one hand tied behind their backs.
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