It’s an interesting question really, which of the two voice activated services do you think will win out in the longer term? Do we think that Apple’s Siri will continue to lead the pack or that Google’s Now will win in the end? I hadn’t actually thought about it this way but having had the point made to me I think I would probably bet upon Google’s Now becoming the most useful of these two services.
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This isn’t particularly because I’m an expert in natural language processing (although I did some commercial work on early form of it a couple of decades ago). It’s because of this point made by Google themselves:
Scott Huffman, the Google engineering director leading the effort, said the company had a headstart on its competition because the way it calculates the rankings of search results give its systems an understanding of the meaning of how language is used in the real world.
He said: “The reason we feel pretty good in terms of competition is because what we’re seeing and everything we’re building today is built on top of the foundation of core web search rankings.
“If I say, ‘Show me the Eiffel Tower,’ I want pictures of the Eiffel Tower but, if I say, ‘Show me the money,’ I don’t want pictures because I’m talking about the line from the Jerry Maguire movie. Google actually knows that because of web rankings telling us.”
To understand this it’s necessary to get the point that neither Now nor Siri are in fact an artificial intelligence. They do not “understand” what is being asked of them in the same way that another human might. They are, rather, sophisticated interfaces with search engines. Siri sends queries off to Bing, Wolfram Alpha and several other places. Google’s Now obviously uses Google itself. And once we think of them this way then to me at least the balance of probabilities is easy enough. I’m obviously going to expect something based on the Google engine to work better than things not based upon it.
Obviously this changes if we do indeed end up creating proper artificial intelligences. Well, OK, there’s a semantic problem here, for many would say that something that appears to be an AI is indeed an AI. A position I have a lot of sympathy with. But I would still distinguish between a “proper” AI and one that just appears to be one via the route of being very good at interrogating search engines. So, as I say, all bets are off if anyone does indeed create that “proper” AI, but if we’re remaining with Siri, Now and other such products being interfaces with search engines then I really would expect Google to win that particular battle.
And of course now is a great time for you all to explain why I’m wrong in the comments section. For this is one of those things where I’m thinking about the balance of probabilities and new information might well change my opinion.
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