Don’t judge a smart speaker by its sales — at least that’s the story floating around the internet today, as Ad Age has revealed a study showing that Google Home is six times likelier than Amazon Alexa to answer user requests correctly. The research, conducted by New York-based digital agency 360i, backs the search company’s voice assistant, despite consumers clearly choosing Amazon’s option instead. In March, eMarketer reported that Amazon Alexa has a 70% share of the voice controlled speaker market.
Using proprietary software to ask both Google Home and Amazon Alexa some 3,000 questions, Google’s voice assistant emerged six times likelier than the competition to answer correctly. The results are surprising but make sense when you consider the companies’ disparate approaches to voice assistant technology.
Google sources a great deal of its information from the Knowledge Graph, a database of facts the search giant has been culling from its search results over the past five years. The Knowledge Graph is a huge program that links with information services all over the web to optimize search results.
Amazon, meanwhile, typically works with information and content partners to source its data. To the casual user — especially since these AI operations are all done in the cloud — there may be no perceptible difference to Google and Amazon’s results. But the search giant’s data set is vast. (On the other hand, Amazon’s set of consumer insight is growing larger by the day, so when it comes to shopping, it can’t be beat.)
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And then there are the smart home and service-linked capabilities that both of these smart assistants can perform. While 360i’s research didn’t break out how many of the 3,000 questions were general knowledge versus personalized requests, you’d expect that the researchers asked the assistants to play some music or turn out the lights. Results in those domains can vary greatly, depending on the products and services attached.
For instance, if you ask a Nest Thermostat-linked Google Home to “set the air conditioning to 72,” it should do the job. But that same command on the Amazon Echo wouldn’t work, as Alexa requires different command sets that require specific trigger words.
While that’s interesting, from a practical standpoint, many more products are compatible with Alexa than with Google Home. So, while it might take a few more tries to get the correct answer from Amazon, at least it’s possible — and that seems to be what matters most to consumers right now.