Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.
Here are seven Android personal assistants that you can chat up to do your bidding
Cluzee features standard voice command functions you can say to operate common functions of your phone -- telling it to call, email or text a friend, or perform a Web search, for example. Its developer also thought to throw in other nifty personal services, like a personal health planner to keep track of your calorie intake and exercise routine, and you can tell Cluzee to summon you a cab or send flowers to someone.
When I asked Cluzee to tell me my local area’s outside temperature, it spoke in extreme detail about the weather (rambling on about the projected highs and lows for the day, wind speed, cloudiness, chance of rain). It cited a long entry from an online encyclopedia when asked about the nature of life. But it had no clue when I asked “What’s your name?”
Spell “iris” backwards and you get... not a coincidence because this personal assistant was quickly put together soon after the iPhone 4S launched. How quickly? Within 8 hours, reportedly. It’s no equal to Siri at this point, so this is clearly listed as an alpha release, but as of this writing its developers have been updating it frequently.
The direct-voice commands you can give include calling, texting or looking up a person in your contacts, and performing Web searches.
Iris failed to tell me the current outside temperature, and it read off a paragraph summarizing the “meaning of life.” It knew who it was when I asked for its name.
The release of the iPhone 4S brought the debut of Siri, a personal assistant tool which has quickly attained a pop-culture following. Programs that control the functions of a computer and can look up things for you on the Internet through voice commands have been around for a while. Apple pitches Siri as letting you do this in a more conversational way, and the program talks back to you at times with clever responses, especially to absurd questions.
But Android device owners already have had a number of voice-controlled personal assistants to choose from, and most are free. In fact, some of them were originally published prior to the iPhone 4S, while the others are obviously cashing in on the current popularity of Siri. Here are seven Android personal assistants that you can chat up to do your bidding.
5. Speaktoit Assistant
Speaktoit lets you customize the appearance of a comic illustration of a woman or man that’s supposed to personify this personal assistant app. (You can change this character’s hairstyle, outfit, skin color, etc.) The character’s face will animate a little when the program responds to your commands, but, otherwise, this is just superficial -- a virtual paper doll, basically -- and has no effect on its functionality.
You can tell Speaktoit to call, text or email a contact; perform common functions with social networking sites that include Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare; and search for things on the Web.
Speaktoit quickly gave me the outdoor temperature and was, thankfully in my opinion, curt on the Big Question: “The meaning of life is a bit outside my range of expertise. For now.” It knew its name.
1. EVA / EVAN
This personal assistant app comes in two versions -- EVA and EVAN. You might assume the difference between the two is that the former talks in a female voice and the latter, male. Well, no -- you have to install third-party voice packs separately to change the voice. The difference is that you are presented either an image of a woman or man meant to represent the assistant. Each sells for $8.99, but both have free versions (EVA Intern and EVAN Intern) which come with ad banners.
EVA / EVAN is focused on executing a long list of functions of your Android device -- you can tell it to manage your contacts and calendar, tweet, update your Facebook status, make calls, send emails, make Web and map searches, and even turn on your device’s camera flash to function as a flashlight. Although you can talk to it with natural wording, you have to give it your orders in a fairly straightforward manner.
EVA / EVAN couldn’t tell me what the current outside temperature was in my city, but it did give me a canned but brief philosophical answer to “what is the meaning of life?” Neither version could tell me its name when I asked.
6. Vlingo Virtual Assistant
This is another personal assistant app that, honestly, works best if you talk to it formally -- bossing it around like a virtual underling. You can tell Vlingo to call, text or email a contact; update your status on Facebook, Foursquare and Twitter; and search for stuff. A few unique features include Vlingo being able to buy movie tickets and book hotel rooms for you.
Vlingo knew itself, gave the same canned meaning-of-life answer that iris. did, yet couldn’t tell me what the weather was like outside my window.
Like iris, the developers of this personal assistant are blatantly hoping to capitalize on the latest Apple tech phenomenon. They look to be angling Skyvi as the assistant app you use to ask trivia questions, and most of its responses apparently are gleaned from Wolfram Alpha (e.g. the meaning of life? 42). The only practical functionality it has is letting you use your voice to access your Facebook and Twitter accounts -- and it can read aloud tweets of the people you follow, which sounds, literally, as tedious as you might imagine.
Skyvi told me the temperature in my city, and its name, pronouncing it carefully.
This personal assistant is stuffed with features that are either useful or trivial. For example, it can translate spoken English into Spanish, set reminder/wake-up alarms for you, tell your horoscope, read a random poem to you, or search for videos of snoring cats (seriously, this is listed in its feature list). As well, you can command it to perform more useful functions such as calling, texting or emailing a person, and doing various searches.
Jeannie told me the current temperature, rambled on about the meaning of life, and knew its name. Smart gal.
16 November 2023