Due to the lack of alternatives you’re currently faced with 3 big questions:
- do I want a virtual assistant? And if the answer is "yes":
- do I prefer Amazon’s Alexa?
- do I prefer Google Assistant?
For many people in Germany, the answer to the first question is: "For God’s sake, no! A spy like that won’t come into my house!" You may stop reading now, this article is not for you.
In my household, the answer to the other two questions was: "Phew, let’s try both systems and see what becomes a standard. After almost 2 years with Alexa on Amazon’s Echo devices and more than 2 years with the Google Assistant on Google Homes, both systems distributed throughout the house – each room equipped with both systems – I draw my personal conclusion that the Google Assistant is worlds better than the Alexa.
Advantages and disadvantages of Alexa
Getting started with Amazon’s devices is very easy. The biggest online shop is nearly giving the devices to customers for free – I started with the big tube, then I went on with the small Echo, later I got the first Echo Show and then the second generation Show.
Once you have equipped the rest of the family with an Echo Show, you can finally use the video telephony in your living room, which has been propagated for decades but has never really been implemented. It’s easy to use, but you’re limited to mobile phones as alternative devices if you don’t own an Echo Show.
For the Amazon devices you get a lot of so-called skills, i.e. possibilities of interaction, which then triggers "something", e.g. switching the lights on and off. I used these skills not only for simple light things, but also for home automation.
Amazon initially gave away a lot of Echo devices at skill programming workshops to get developers to flood the skill store. It was also very easy to create a skill - briefly set the sentence that the user has to say, set the target script where the statement should be triggered on the Internet, and the skill is ready.
What bothers me personally are the fixed sentences. Apart from the fact that you can’t think as stupid as the end user anyway, translated skills from non-German companies are rather ugly and the whole thing is very halting. This makes the use of Alexa’s simply too uncomfortable for normal consumers.
The name and trigger words of Alexa are also extremely counterproductive. If you watch movies about "Alexander the Great", it is advisable to switch off the microphone first. The alternatives like "Echo" and "Computer" aren’t really better either.
If I would like to know anything from Alexa, Bing is used as a search engine in the background, which leads to the fact that the answer is complete crap very often.
Advantages and disadvantages of Google Assistant
Google doesn’t really make it difficult to get started with your own assistant. Many shops throw the Google home mini devices literally after you. Also here I started with the first tubes, which were only half as high as the Echos, but nevertheless offered very good sound.
Shortly afterwards, small versions of the Google Home devices came out, just like from Amazon, but thanks to the fabric cover and the round edges, the first version was prettier than the Echos.
The development of “Actions”, the skills for the Google Assistant, is a bit more complicated. As a developer you can use helpers like Dialogflow (formerly known as api.ai) to use machine learning for what users try to say and how to tune it. Of course Dialogflow can also be used for Alexa Skills, but you still have to export what they have learned and re-import it for the Skills.
If a developer wants to control devices, these device groups have to be provided by Google – this made it impossible to support my external blinds for a long time, but Google has also improved this for a few months now. Unfortunately, eQ-3 with Homematic IP is not able or willing to offer support here. The company simply does not want to realize that this leads me to the consideration of exchanging this system as well.
And despite missing support on the part of some German companies the Google Assistant works nevertheless really substantially better and more intuitively in the operation, than Alexa. The products of Google are really clearly more valuable, than Amazon’s devices.
What Google can do really well in contrast to Alexa, however, is the assignment of the currently speaking person to Google accounts and also the use of several languages at the same time. Some actions are curtained in English, but not in German. The fundamental conversion to English in a German-speaking household would then be rather annoying.
The important difference
In my opinion, the biggest difference between the two systems is simply that you notice what they were created for. The Google Assistant was created to help people understand and use voice control in everyday life, that you can also learn and control with your speech. At Amazon they wanted to put a device on the market that could be used for shopping via speech and that could even do other things. Maybe.
The natural speech input and output, the more pleasant output voices, as well as better answers to everyday questions, make the Google Assistant with the Google devices the better assistant for me and my home.
Disadvantage: I must equip the rest of the family with another videotelephony system now 😉
As always, this is my personal opinion. If you have another opinion or experience, I would love to read it on your blog.