Automation Virtual Assistants Explained

May 19, 2017

In The Devil Wears Prada, Meryl Streep plays a boss from hell to her personal assistants. Her personal assistants do everything from getting her coffee and picking up clothes from designers to picking up meals and more. But a virtual assistant differs because it does not have a physical body and does not lose its temper when you shout at it. You may not be able to have an argument with your virtual assistant at present, but you can use it to arrange flights, get weather forecasts or news, control your lighting and music system, and more.

Virtual assistants like Alexa, Siri, Viv, and Google Home are making waves in the home automation industry. But most people just do not understand what they are and their significance in the future of home automation. So, what are they?

They are a type of Artificial Intelligence

The term artificial intelligence describes machines that operate with some level of intelligence. For instance, it can refer to a device that mimics the way you think or a machine that can learn to do things beyond what it was programmed to do. Alexa, Google Home, Siri, and others are AI that can access information from online sources and communicate it to you using natural language.

They can understand or listen to what you say (natural language input), process it, and then respond by giving you an answer or by completing an action. For instance, you can ask Alexa who Alexander Hamilton was and also ask it to turn off the lights in your home.

They all work differently

Each home automation virtual assistant has its own pros and cons. Here are some of the home assistants and how they work:

Amazon’s Alexa (Echo, Echo Dot)

Amazon Echo is a tube-shaped speaker controlled using voice commands. The speaker connects to the Alexa virtual assistant to provide information about the news, weather, sports scores, and more. Alexa can accept more than 10,000 commands called “skills,” but you have to remember every specific word in each skill for the speaker to respond appropriately. You can use Alexa to control compatible third-party devices or channels recognized by the IFTTT app.

Currently, it is compatible with more third-party smart home devices than any other voice controlled smart device in the home automation market.

Google Home

Google Home features a cylindrical elegant white tube fitted with microphones and speakers. It can plug into the Google database and access your search queries, mapping and location, emails, and browsing. Its virtual assistant allows you to control smart devices like the Nest Thermostat and third party apps through voice control.

You can ask Google Home questions like “Ok Google, how is the weather” and it answers with natural language. Google will soon add Google Assistant, their more conversational spin to the company’s existing search capabilities. Just like Amazon Echo, you can integrate Google Home with third party devices and apps.


Viv is an AI assistant that has been described by industry insiders as a “powerful version of Siri.” Unlike Google Home and Amazon’s Alexa, Viv does not have the ability to answer with a virtual voice. But it accepts natural language input and uses a complex process its developers describe as “dynamic program generation” to offer accurate answers.

You do not need to memorize phrases like Amazon Alexa’s “skills” or thousands of predefined words. This allows you to ask questions like “did it rain three Thursdays ago” and it gives you an accurate response.

Still in the development stage, Viv has not made an appearance to the general public. Samsung acquired the company, and they say that they intend to give it voice capabilities like those on Google Home. There is no doubt that Viv will be a game changer in the industry especially if Samsung adds it as a key feature in their automation products.

Siri has not been able to attract a lot of buzz. It still lags behind when compared to Alexa and Google Home. But Apple is working on changing that. For more information about virtual assistants, as well as PDF manuals and videos, please visit our website.


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