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Though Amazon is the very first hardware maker that popularized intelligent home speakers with the release of Echo but it had been lacking on the software front. Google, on the other hand, one-upped the Echo with the recent release of its contextually aware Google Assistant and Google Home smart speaker. But, Alexa is not one to back down. It has reportedly bagged a holiday update which introduces a limited set of contextual responses to Echo.

For those unaware, contextual awareness for virtual assistants means it is now flexible enough to hold a conversation by remembering what the users, i.e you, were talking about. Google Home has launched with this capability baked into its super-smart AI-powered Assistant while Alexa has been upgrading its capabilities and skills over the past one year.

Google Home can answer questions like ‘tell me about nearby restaurants,’ followed by ‘what about taco joints?’ which you can then top off with ‘and coffee!?’ The smart speaker will be able to cling onto your conversation and answer back with prompt replies. This feature is now being made available to Alexa-powered Echo owners as well.

According to a handful of Reddit users, Alexa has started responding to basic questions about something that has already been established. One of the user mentions that the feature went live a couple days but further corroborations have started pouring in just yesterday. They’ve further added that the virtual assistant might have started answering contextual questions but it is lacking in terms of reliability. It’s having trouble keeping up with topics that extend beyond the scope of an individual.

For example, if you ask Alexa about ‘Who’s the president of America?’ and follow it with ‘How old is he?’ then the assistant will return with a prompt reply and carry on the conversation. But it might not be able to catch up or not answer at all in other situations. It could also suggest that Amazon is looking to introduce contextual awareness in Alexa and is now using select users as test subjects.

In short, it directly points to the fact that Amazon is aggressively working to strengthen the intelligence capabilities of its virtual assistant to not lose an established market to Google — or the soon to launch Cortana-powered Harmon Kardon speaker. But Google Home – which isn’t a shiny piece of black metal – is far more superior in terms of intelligence and can understand context easily. So, our pick for the New Year’s would be Assistant’s smarts as compared to Alexa.

2 comments
  1. The Echo is just not smart enough so you end up with this type of situation. We have had the Echo since it launched and now have the Google Home.

    We have found the Home to handle majority of our use cases better than the Echo. With the exception ordering stuff.

    So Thompson put up 60 points. “hey google what is the most kobe scored in a game”? Echo can not do this. Watching a rally and all the people have an acronym on their shirt. “hey google what does X mean” and Google answers.

    But it is the inference with music that is where Home really shines. There are times with the Echo you have to do a quick google search but with the Home you can fine what you are looking for with very little and there are situations where the Google Inference is better than a human.

    So say “hey google play gwen sting bottle” and Sting and Gwen Stefani starts playing.
    The last big difference is the Chromecast as output. This is a big thing for us. So wife says “hey google play SNL highlights on TV and the TV turns on, input set and SNL highlights from YouTube start playing.

    Only config by me was renaming the Shield to TV.

    Could not find the remote a couple of nights ago. Wife saids “hey google play stranger things from netflix on the TV”. Google turns the TV on, sets the input and stranger things starts playing.

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