We put the two leading voice-driven home assistants in a cage to see who would come out on top, Alexa or Google Home.

The search engine for Alexa is Bing (a lot of Amazon's Alexa engineers are in Seattle, so maybe one had something to do with the other). The search engine for Google Home is, wait for it, ok I'll let you guess this one. In this face off, if Alexa (Ax) and Google Home (GH) both fail to answer, I'll bring in a pinch hitter--Siri's google search on an iPhone (iP). Before we rattle the cage, let's discuss some overall impressions.

Both Ax & GH have impressive voice recognition capabilities. This is key to making assistants even bearable to be around, especially considering the state of Dragon Naturally Speaking PC app at the turn of the millenium. You had to spend at least an hour training your dragon. At $500+, and with loads of misspellings, this was quite a drag and made you wonder if Queen Daenerys could help (Game of Thrones existed on paper back then).

But Nuance (the Dragon tamers) felt your pain and slowly assembled an impressive pipeline of finite state machines, Boltzmann machines, and all sorts of digital signal processing filters to generalize the voice model, reduce that training time to almost nothing, and correct all those spelling and word selection errors with integrated natural language processing. They got so good Jobs gave them the nod to be Siri's ears.

If you notice a slight Seattle bent to Alexa, it could be Bing, or it could be Amazon's Seattle office having fun (Alexa engineers are in Seattle, Boston, Sunnyvale, Irvine, Poland, Germany, UK, Italy, and Luxembourg). If you happen to have an Alexa near one of these other locations, give some of these questions a try and help us suss out Alexa's pedigree. And if you want to learn how to build and train your own dialog engine to have a sense of humor, check out our book, NLP in Action. The discount code mllane during checkout will get you 50% off.

But back to the contenders in this face-off. Since I had both devices in the same room I thought it would be fun to introduce GH and Ax to each other. If you command Alexa to create a to do list with the entry, 'Ok Google play music', then upon asking Alexa, 'what is my to do list'. Alexa commands GH to play music. Likewise if you ask GH to repeat 'Alexa play music' and ask GH to repeat again, not only does GH remember what you said, but causes Alexa to play music. But you can only ask GH to repeat once, then it 'forgets'. GH has the edge in voice recognition merely for its capability to respond to 'Ok Google', whereas Alexa needs to be cajoled into action sometimes.

So with the introductions behind us, we're off to the cage...

Tell me a dirty joke.

GH: A vacuum cleaner dirt joke not worth repeating     Ax: A coffee 'mud' joke (Seattle again ?)  Both cheekily 'unrandom'

Play some Rock music.

GH: Played a rockabilly tune.  Ax: Played Jimi Hendrix, is that another WA state easter egg ?

Play Empire of the Sun.

GH: Pulled up an Empire of the Sun station on Pandora since I set that up.   Ax: Played an Empire of the Sun playlist. Amazon Music I presume

What song is this ?

Both answered correctly, showing that certain potential queries are loaded into temporary memory for recall.

How do I wash delicates ?

GH: Gave washing advice from a Tide website    Ax: Can't help

When is the best time to plant Tomatoes?

GH: Chose a regional publication with times, which is a pretty handy use of location.  Ax: Referenced the Farmer's Almanac.

When is the next Portland (local to author) Timbers game ?

Both answered with place, time and opponent.  footnote: Sports information seems to need to be currently in 'season' for both GH and Ax to handle requests. Next NFL game, or next Seattle Seahawks game was met with 'sorry'. When does the 2018 World Cup start also met with 'sorry'. Where is the 2018 World Cup was no problem. iP for the first three requests presented links with the information contained therein and then answered aloud about the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

What time is the next Amtrak train from Portland to Seattle ?

GH: Said it couldn't 'answer public transport questions yet'  Ax: 'Sorry'  iP: Verbally, '53 minutes' with the station address.

How much protein is in 3 eggs ?

GH: Answered succinctly  Ax: Apologized

What are the ingredients in Macaroni and Cheese ?

GH: Couldn't Answer  Ax: Couldn't answer  iP: Links to recipes for M&C

What are the most popular springtime vegetables ?

GH: A unreferenced list  Ax: A wikipedia list.   footnote: Alexa best pal is wikipedia, which makes sense, due to its open source charter. Also, both GH and Ax fare better at Top 5 and Top 10 questions, rather than 'most popular', 'biggest', 'best'. The internet's favorite foods are Top X lists, and it gives the devices a way to hedge their answers.

How far is it from here to the Airport ?

GH: 14 Miles by car  Ax: Gave top local telephone listings with Airport in the name, like Airport (Bowling) Lanes. If you add Portland before Airport, it tells you how far from 'here' to Portland city center as the crow flies.

Name the leader of the German Green Party ?

GH: Can't answer  Ax: Can't answer  iP: Gave a link to the answer.  footnote: This is just speculation, but I would think that some webpages contain header html that is readily identifiable as synopsis text that GH, Ax and iP could read,  but I imagine this is a mostly miss rather than hit situation. it is also possible that the returned match just isn't precise enough and erring on the side of NOT giving the wrong answer, deflects the question.

Who is the president of China ?

GH: Answered with correct name Ax: Answered with correct name and added length in office

What is on TV tonight ?

GH: Stated that TV schedules are not yet supported. Ax: Since Amazon is now a 'network', the reply was, Add TV module from Alexa skill store.

Create an alarm in 5 minutes. (wait 2 minutes) "Cancel Alarm"

GH: No problem in creation or cancellation  Ax: No problem in creation, but could not cancel.

Order Dishwashing liquid.

GH: Stated that I must enter payment information first. I did so and then the answer was, 'Sorry'. Rather annoying.  Ax: Provided a list (love the lists) of most popular dishwashing liquids purchased on Amazon. I selected one and it was added to my shopping list. Ax also asked if I was ready to check out.

How do I order a book ?

GH: Can't  Ax: Can't  iP: Links to sites selling selected top titles.

I want to order a book.

GH: Ok, what book ?  Ax: Can't

Does Amazon.com sells books ?

GH: Sorry  Ax: Sorry (!?)  iP: Links to how you sell your own books on Amazon.com

What book has this ISBN number, or International Standard Book Number ?

GH: Can't  Ax: Won't let you finish stating the number  iP: Link to a IBSN lookup website.  

What is 1024 divided by 16 ?

GH: 1000.5 was given each time in 2 queries. I couldn't reverse engineer that algorithm.  Ax: Correct Answer

What does my day look like tomorrow ?

GH: Lists items from your google calendar but also gives superfluous news, delaying information requested. Ax: get to the point and lists appointments

How is the Dow Jones Industrial Average doing ?

GH: No problem  Ax: Please add Finance Skill

How many calories are in Starfruit ?

GH: 30 Calories  Ax: 30 calories and some interesting background information about starfruit.

Where is the nearest supermarket ?

GH: Answered with Trader Joes, while Fred Meyer was closer, however I recalled using google to get the opening hours of the 'nearest' Trader Joes earlier in the week using my iPad. Coincidence ? I think not.  Ax: Listed the closest Fred Meyer first.  

What time does it close ?

GH: Answered with closing time and telephone number, though it provided it in the previous answer.  Ax: Gave closing time only for Fred Meyer.  footnote: A temporary array is your friend.  

Who is the White House Press Secretary ?

GH: History of the office and then..... Mr Spicer  Ax: No answer

How old is she ? (not Melissa Mccarthy, just a test)

GH: Ignored gender and gave correct age for Spicer  Ax: No basis, no love.

<html><head><meta content="text/html; charset=UTF-8" http-equiv="content-type"><style type="text/css">ol{margin:0;padding:0}table td,table th{padding:0}.c3{margin-left:18pt;padding-top:0pt;padding-bottom:0pt;line-height:1.15;orphans:2;widows:2;text-align:left}.c12{margin-left:20pt;padding-top:0pt;padding-bottom:0pt;line-height:1.15;orphans:2;widows:2;text-align:left}.c13{padding-top:0pt;padding-bottom:0pt;line-height:1.15;orphans:2;widows:2;text-align:left}.c2{font-weight:400;text-decoration:none;vertical-align:baseline;font-family:"Arial";font-style:normal}.c5{text-decoration:none;vertical-align:baseline;font-family:"Arial";font-style:normal}.c9{background-color:#ffffff;font-size:9.5pt;color:#1155cc;text-decoration:underline}.c1{background-color:#ffffff;font-size:9.5pt;color:#222222}.c11{background-color:#ffffff;color:#222222;font-size:14pt}.c8{background-color:#ffffff;max-width:468pt;padding:72pt 72pt 72pt 72pt}.c7{color:#000000;font-size:11pt}.c10{background-color:#ffffff;font-size:9.5pt}.c0{color:inherit;text-decoration:inherit}.c6{height:11pt}.c4{font-weight:700}.title{padding-top:0pt;color:#000000;font-size:26pt;padding-bottom:3pt;font-family:"Arial";line-height:1.15;page-break-after:avoid;orphans:2;widows:2;text-align:left}.subtitle{padding-top:0pt;color:#666666;font-size:15pt;padding-bottom:16pt;font-family:"Arial";line-height:1.15;page-break-after:avoid;orphans:2;widows:2;text-align:left}li{color:#000000;font-size:11pt;font-family:"Arial"}p{margin:0;color:#000000;font-size:11pt;font-family:"Arial"}h1{padding-top:20pt;color:#000000;font-size:20pt;padding-bottom:6pt;font-family:"Arial";line-height:1.15;page-break-after:avoid;orphans:2;widows:2;text-align:left}h2{padding-top:18pt;color:#000000;font-size:16pt;padding-bottom:6pt;font-family:"Arial";line-height:1.15;page-break-after:avoid;orphans:2;widows:2;text-align:left}h3{padding-top:16pt;color:#434343;font-size:14pt;padding-bottom:4pt;font-family:"Arial";line-height:1.15;page-break-after:avoid;orphans:2;widows:2;text-align:left}h4{padding-top:14pt;color:#666666;font-size:12pt;padding-bottom:4pt;font-family:"Arial";line-height:1.15;page-break-after:avoid;orphans:2;widows:2;text-align:left}h5{padding-top:12pt;color:#666666;font-size:11pt;padding-bottom:4pt;font-family:"Arial";line-height:1.15;page-break-after:avoid;orphans:2;widows:2;text-align:left}h6{padding-top:12pt;color:#666666;font-size:11pt;padding-bottom:4pt;font-family:"Arial";line-height:1.15;page-break-after:avoid;font-style:italic;orphans:2;widows:2;text-align:left}</style></head><body class="c8"><p class="c3"><span class="c5 c4 c11">Cage Match: Alexa v. Google Home - 30 questions</span></p><p class="c3 c6"><span class="c2 c1"></span></p><p class="c3"><span class="c1">Alexa and Google Home are the two leading consumer voice driven home assistants. The search engine for Alexa is Bing (a lot of Amazon&#39;s Alexa engineers are in Seattle, so maybe one had something to do with the other), and the search engine for Google Home is, wait for it, ok guess. In this face off</span><span class="c10">, when</span><span class="c2 c1">&nbsp;Alexa (Ax) and Google Home (GH) both fail to answer, a pinch hitter, Siri&#39;s google search on an iPhone (iP) will give it a go. Before we rattle the cage, let&#39;s discuss some overall impressions. </span></p><p class="c3 c6"><span class="c2 c1"></span></p><p class="c3"><span class="c2 c1">Both Ax &amp; GH have impressive voice recognition capabilities. This is key to making assistants even bearable to be around, especially considering the late 90&#39;s Dragon Naturally Speaking PC app, where you had to spend at least an hour training your dragon. This as quite a drag, and at $500+ &nbsp;with loads of misspellings, made you wonder if Queen Daenerys could help (Game of Thrones existed on paper back then).</span></p><p class="c3 c6"><span class="c2 c1"></span></p><p class="c3"><span class="c1">But Nuance (the Dragon tamers) felt your pain and slowly assembled an impressive pipeline of finite state machines, Boltzmann machines, and all sorts of digital signal processing filters to generalize the voice model, reduce that training time to almost nothing, and correct all those spelling and word selection errors with integrated natural language processing. They got so good </span><span class="c9"><a class="c0" href="https://www.google.com/url?q=https://techcrunch.com/2012/08/06/nuance-nina/&amp;sa=D&amp;ust=1492640427485000&amp;usg=AFQjCNEztD0apN6frl_x7ezKsrrrtsE7Ww">Jobs gave them the nod</a></span><span class="c2 c1">&nbsp;to be Siri&#39;s ears.</span></p><p class="c3"><span class="c2 c1">&nbsp;</span></p><p class="c3"><span class="c1">If you notice a slight Seattle bent to Alexa, it could be Bing, or it could be Amazon&#39;s Seattle office having fun (Alexa engineers are in Seattle, Boston, Sunnyvale, Irvine, Poland, Germany, UK, Italy, and Luxembourg). If you happen to have an Alexa near one of these other locations, give some of these questions a try and help us suss out Alexa&#39;s pedigree. And if you want to learn how to build and train your own dialog engine to have a sense of humor, check out our book, </span><span class="c9"><a class="c0" href="https://www.google.com/url?q=https://www.manning.com/books/natural-language-processing-in-action&amp;sa=D&amp;ust=1492640427487000&amp;usg=AFQjCNGf-7rEDlXSQUoxfcH9uIIQKVdmpg">NLP in Action</a></span><span class="c1">. The discount code </span><span class="c1 c4">mllane</span><span class="c2 c1">&nbsp;during checkout will get you 50% off. </span></p><p class="c3 c6"><span class="c2 c1"></span></p><p class="c3"><span class="c2 c1">But back to the contenders in this face-off. Since I had both devices in the same room I thought it would be fun to introduce GH and Ax to each other. If you command Alexa to create a to do list with the entry, &#39;Ok Google play music&#39;, then upon asking Alexa, &#39;what is my to do list&#39;. Alexa commands GH to play music. Likewise if you ask GH to repeat &#39;Alexa play music&#39; and ask GH to repeat again, not only does GH remember what you said, but causes Alexa to play music. But you can only ask GH to repeat once, then it &#39;forgets&#39;. GH has the edge in voice recognition merely for its capability to respond to &#39;Ok Google&#39;, whereas Alexa needs to be cajoled into action sometimes.</span></p><p class="c3 c6"><span class="c2 c1"></span></p><p class="c3"><span class="c2 c1">So with the introductions behind us, we&#39;re off to the cage. </span></p><p class="c3 c6"><span class="c5 c1 c4"></span></p><p class="c3"><span class="c5 c1 c4">Tell me a dirty joke.</span></p><p class="c3"><span class="c2 c1">GH: A vacuum cleaner dirt joke not worth repeating &nbsp; &nbsp; Ax: A coffee &#39;mud&#39; joke (Seattle again ?) &nbsp;Both cheekily &#39;unrandom&#39;</span></p><p class="c3"><span class="c5 c1 c4">Play some Rock music.</span></p><p class="c3"><span class="c2 c1">GH: Played a rockabilly tune. &nbsp;Ax: Played Jimi Hendrix, is that another WA state easter egg ?</span></p><p class="c3"><span class="c5 c1 c4">Play Empire of the Sun.</span></p><p class="c3"><span class="c2 c1">GH: Pulled up an Empire of the Sun station on Pandora since I set that up. &nbsp; Ax: Played an Empire of the Sun playlist. Amazon Music I repsume</span></p><p class="c3"><span class="c5 c1 c4">What song is this ?</span></p><p class="c3"><span class="c2 c1">Both answered correctly, showing that certain potential queries are loaded into temporary memory for recall.</span></p><p class="c3"><span class="c5 c1 c4">How do I wash delicates ?</span></p><p class="c3"><span class="c2 c1">GH: Gave washing advice from a Tide website &nbsp; &nbsp;Ax: Can&#39;t help</span></p><p class="c3"><span class="c5 c1 c4">When is the best time to plant Tomatoes ?</span></p><p class="c3"><span class="c2 c1">GH: Chose a regional publication with times, which is a pretty handy use of location. &nbsp;Ax: Referenced the Farmer&#39;s Almanac.</span></p><p class="c3"><span class="c5 c1 c4">When is the next Portland (local to author) Timbers game ?</span></p><p class="c3"><span class="c2 c1">Both answered with place, time and opponent. &nbsp;footnote: Sports information seems to need to be currently in &#39;season&#39; for both GH and Ax to handle requests. Next NFL game, or next Seattle Seahawks game was met with &#39;sorry&#39;. When does the 2018 World Cup start also met with &#39;sorry&#39;. Where is the 2018 World Cup was no problem. iP for the first three requests presented links with the information contained therein and then answered aloud about the 2018 World Cup in Russia. </span></p><p class="c3"><span class="c5 c1 c4">What time is the next Amtrak train from Portland to Seattle ?</span></p><p class="c3"><span class="c2 c1">GH: Said it couldn&#39;t &#39;answer public transport questions yet&#39; &nbsp;Ax: &#39;Sorry&#39; &nbsp;iP: Verbally, &#39;53 minutes&#39; with the station address.</span></p><p class="c3"><span class="c1 c4 c5">How much protein is in 3 eggs ?</span></p><p class="c3"><span class="c2 c1">GH: Answered succinctly &nbsp;Ax: Apologized</span></p><p class="c3"><span class="c5 c1 c4">What are the ingredients in Macaroni and Cheese ?</span></p><p class="c3"><span class="c2 c1">GH: Couldn&#39;t Answer &nbsp;Ax: Couldn&#39;t answer &nbsp;iP: Links to recipes for M&amp;C</span></p><p class="c3"><span class="c5 c1 c4">What are the most popular springtime vegetables ?</span></p><p class="c3"><span class="c2 c1">GH: A unreferenced list &nbsp;Ax: A wikipedia list. &nbsp; footnote: Alexa best pal is wikipedia, which makes sense, due to its open source charter. Also, both GH and Ax fare better at Top 5 and Top 10 questions, rather than &#39;most popular&#39;, &#39;biggest&#39;, &#39;best&#39;. The internet&#39;s favorite foods are Top X lists, and it gives the devices a way to hedge their answers.</span></p><p class="c3"><span class="c5 c1 c4">How far is it from here to the Airport ?</span></p><p class="c3"><span class="c2 c1">GH: 14 Miles by car &nbsp;Ax: Gave top local telephone listings with Airport in the name, like Airport (Bowling) Lanes. If you add Portland before Airport, it tells you how far from &#39;here&#39; to Portland city center as the crow flies.</span></p><p class="c3"><span class="c5 c1 c4">Name the leader of the German Green Party ?</span></p><p class="c3"><span class="c2 c1">GH: Can&#39;t answer &nbsp;Ax: Can&#39;t answer &nbsp;iP: Gave a link to the answer. &nbsp;footnote: This is just speculation, but I would think that some webpages contain header html that is readily identifiable as synopsis text that GH, Ax and iP could read, &nbsp;but I imagine this is a mostly miss rather than hit situation. it is also possible that the returned match just isn&#39;t precise enough and erring on the side of NOT giving the wrong answer, deflects the question.</span></p><p class="c3"><span class="c5 c1 c4">Who is the president of China ?</span></p><p class="c3"><span class="c2 c1">GH: Answered with correct name Ax: Answered with correct name and added length in office</span></p><p class="c3"><span class="c5 c1 c4">What is on TV tonight ?</span></p><p class="c3"><span class="c2 c1">GH: Stated that TV schedules are not yet supported. Ax: Since Amazon is now a &#39;network&#39;, the reply was, Add TV module from Alexa skill store. </span></p><p class="c3"><span class="c5 c1 c4">Create an alarm in 5 minutes. 2 minutes in, &#39;Cancel Alarm&#39;</span></p><p class="c3"><span class="c2 c1">GH: No problem in creation or cancellation &nbsp;Ax: No problem in creation, but could not cancel.</span></p><p class="c3"><span class="c5 c1 c4">Order Dishwashing liquid.</span></p><p class="c3"><span class="c2 c1">GH: Stated that I must enter payment information first. I did so and then the answer was, &#39;Sorry&#39;. Rather annoying. &nbsp;Ax: Provided a list (love the lists) of most popular dishwashing liquids purchased on Amazon. I selected one and it was added to my shopping list. Ax also asked if I was ready to check out.</span></p><p class="c3"><span class="c5 c1 c4">How do I order a book ?</span></p><p class="c3"><span class="c2 c1">GH: Can&#39;t &nbsp;Ax: Can&#39;t &nbsp;iP: Links to sites selling selected top titles.</span></p><p class="c3"><span class="c2 c1">I want to order a book.</span></p><p class="c3"><span class="c2 c1">GH: Ok, what book ? &nbsp;Ax: Can&#39;t </span></p><p class="c3"><span class="c5 c1 c4">Does Amazon.com sells books ?</span></p><p class="c3"><span class="c1 c2">GH: Sorry &nbsp;Ax: Sorry (!?) &nbsp;iP: Links to how you sell your own books on Amazon.com</span></p><p class="c3"><span class="c5 c1 c4">What book has this ISBN number, or International Standard Book Number ?</span></p><p class="c3"><span class="c2 c1">GH: Can&#39;t &nbsp;Ax: Won&#39;t let you finish stating the number &nbsp;iP: Link to a IBSN lookup website. &nbsp;</span></p><p class="c3"><span class="c5 c1 c4">What is 1024 divided by 16 ?</span></p><p class="c3"><span class="c2 c1">GH: 1000.5 was given each time in 2 queries. I couldn&#39;t reverse engineer that algorithm. &nbsp;Ax: Correct Answer</span></p><p class="c3"><span class="c5 c1 c4">What does my day look like tomorrow ?</span></p><p class="c3"><span class="c2 c1">GH: Lists items from your google calendar but also gives superfluous news, delaying information requested. Ax: get to the point and lists appointments</span></p><p class="c3"><span class="c5 c1 c4">How is the Dow Jones Industrial Average doing ?</span></p><p class="c3"><span class="c2 c1">GH: No problem &nbsp;Ax: Please add Finance Skill</span></p><p class="c3"><span class="c5 c1 c4">How many calories are in Starfruit ?</span></p><p class="c3"><span class="c2 c1">GH: 30 Calories &nbsp;Ax: 30 calories and some interesting background information about starfruit.</span></p><p class="c3"><span class="c5 c1 c4">Where is the nearest supermarket ?</span></p><p class="c3"><span class="c2 c1">GH: Answered with Trader Joes, while Fred Meyer was closer, however I recalled using google to get the opening hours of the &#39;nearest&#39; Trader Joes earlier in the week using my iPad. Coincidence ? I think not. &nbsp;Ax: Listed the closest Fred Meyer first. &nbsp;</span></p><p class="c3"><span class="c5 c1 c4">What time does it close ?</span></p><p class="c3"><span class="c2 c1">GH: Answered with closing time and telephone number, though it provided it in the previous answer. &nbsp;Ax: Gave closing time only for Fred Meyer. &nbsp;footnote: A temporary array is your friend. &nbsp;</span></p><p class="c3"><span class="c5 c1 c4">Who is the White House Press Secretary ?</span></p><p class="c3"><span class="c2 c1">GH: History of the office and then..... Mr Spicer &nbsp;Ax: No answer</span></p><p class="c3"><span class="c5 c1 c4">How old is she ? (not Melissa Mccarthy, just a test)</span></p><p class="c3"><span class="c2 c1">GH: Ignored gender and gave correct age &nbsp;Ax: No basis, no love.</span></p><p class="c6 c12"><span class="c2 c1"></span></p><p class="c6 c13"><span class="c2 c7"></span></p></body></html>
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