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Apple and Google preparing for war of the virtual personal assistants

News   •   Dec 28, 2013 16:32 GMT

Apple and Google are gearing up in preparation for all out virtual personal assistant war.

According to The Telegraph, The rival technology giants are investing hundreds of millions of dollars in their competing services, Google Now and Siri, and the field is expected to be a major battleground for their mobile operating systems, Android and iOS.

“Both have teams of engineers working to crack the problems of making machines understand complex spoken questions and answer them in natural sentences. Google has said its goal is to create a service comparable to the computer of the Starship Enterprise in Star Trek that will become a new way to interact with the web and myriad other apps.

“Google Now aims to anticipate what people will want from their smartphone by reading their calendar and emails, and analysing their location. On an overseas trip it will serve up flight information based on booking confirmation emails.”

Google thinks it has the advantage. Scott Huffman, Google engineering director, 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.”

The Telegraph adds, “Apple has apparently recognised Google’s advantage. This month it paid more than $200m (£122m) to acquire Topsy, a start-up focused on finding patterns in the 500m tweets posted on Twitter every day.”

Huffman added, “It does feel like a bit of a race. For us the race part often has a lot to do with talent, a little more than finding a start-up with a magic idea that we have to buy before anyone else. It’s more about the engineering talent in this being in a lot of demand.”

In the topic of recruiting the best talent, he said, “Where the humans come in is identifying which sources of data we should use. The other area is verifying data so that when people ask Google a question like, 'How old is Tom Cruise?’ we’ve got the correct answer.

“We have had to go over a cultural bump where we accepted there are cases you need human validation if we’re going to answer questions directly.”

Will Apple or Google win the war of virtual personal assistants? Who do you think is better, Siri or Google Now? Drop a comment below.