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AI Wars: Google Now destroys Cortana & Siri in enhanced-result test… but still found functionally wanting

AI Wars: Google Now destroys Cortana & Siri in enhanced-result test… but still found functionally wanting

by Samir13th October 2014

The introduction of digital assistants into the mobile landscape was supposed to be a revolutionary concept which would change the way people used their phones, offering knowledge enhancement at the tips of their fingers. It was the realisation of the once utopian idea of a virtual programme within a phone which can comprehend user intent.

It’s no secret that Siri has consistently underwhelmed since its introduction into the mobile world, with Apple recently being forced to suffer the ignominy of not one but two mock videos from Microsoft over the inferiority of their AI programme to Window’s Cortana.

Cortana – whose primary cause of recognition is from the revolutionary game franchise Halo – has already been rolled out onto the latest Windows Phones, with Microsoft confirming last month that she would be integrated into their upcoming Windows 10 programme. Clearly the software giants have great faith in the competency and quality of their AI programme, at least by comparison to the perceived inefficiency of Siri. However, they might have to reconsider their programme’s superiority when the newest player in the digital assistance game is taken into consideration: Google Now.

It was only a matter of time before Google threw their hat into the mix for the title of ‘most impressive AI programme’, and their recent marketing push for Google Now across all advertising channels has suggested that they believe they are on course for achieving what we quip as the ‘google goal’ – complete and utter dominance.

It appears that the early battle in the war for supremacy between Apple, Microsoft and Google’s flagship AI programmes has gone to the search engine supernovas, with the findings, of a detailed case study into the query response prowess of each, displaying an emphatic victory for Google Now.

In fact, it can be argued that on the basis of a new case study published by leading SEO agency, Stone Temple, that Cortana and Siri are currently functionally inadequate, particularly when you take into consideration the scale of the utter annihilation both suffered at the hands of Google now in the 3,086 long question response test. If you don’t believe, just ask Siri yourself: Who is smarter Siri or Google Now? The search results will, humiliatingly for Apple, point you to the aforementioned study conveying the latter’s superiority.

Below are the results of the 3,086 question-strong test, displayed in graphical form to illustrate the percentage of useful answers that each of Microsoft, Apple and Google’s flagship AI programmes produced when queried by Stone Temple’s team.

Screen Shot 2014-10-13 at 16.56.54

It should be noted here that the results of the study should be taken with a pinch of salt, as the research itself was privately commissioned by Stone Temple and was undertaken for the specific purpose of analysing the extensiveness of Google’s rumoured new knowledge base, the Knowledge Vault.

Moreover, as Eric Enge of Stone Temple pointed out, the test was carried out as a “straight-up knowledge box comparison, not a personal assistant comparison”. As such, the study measured how well AI programmes dealt with queries which required search results that needed to ‘enhanced’ by a knowledge source, putting Google at a huge advantage due to its success with its Knowledge Graph and speculated creation of the new ‘Knowledge Vault’.
For all who are unfamiliar with what enhanced search results are, they are query responses on search engines which utilise a structured set of pre-determined information. As such, the answer to a query such as the music art ‘Michael Jackson’, will contain a set of information on the pop king, rather than directly answering the users’ question.

The truth is that neither: Cortana, Siri or Google Now fared that well in replying to testers plethora of voice questions, with Google Now only managing to provide enhanced results for 58% of the questions it was asked. This did, however, better Siri’s 29% enhanced result rate and Cortana’s even poorer 20% rate, but still illustrates the reality that there is a lot of work needed to be done across the technological spectrum in order for any of the AI programmes to start exhibiting the prodigious, problem-solving personalities that we long for from such innovations.

Thus, whilst the study proves that Google Now is the best AI for producing more specific results in search, it does nothing to further any of the leading competitors’ assertions that their AI’s are getting more intelligent.

Nonetheless, Google’s prowess in the art of search marks them out as the clear winners at present, continually producing greatly enhanced results and detailed answers. The study also cross-referenced the questions with online searches on both Google and Bing, with Bing actually producing a superior array of results than Cortana. This indicates that Microsoft might be best served moving to enhance the capabilities of their programme by integrating it into their search engine in the future.


Ultimately, the results of the study convey two actualities thus far: 1) Google Now offers a more comprehensive service than Siri and Cortana at present and 2) That none of them are particularly adept at providing search results when user intent taken into account.

Yes, all of the programmes have incorporated geographic mapping and voice response technology into their databases, but this does not mask the fact that all 3 Als are inadequate for purpose when it comes to answering the day-to-day queries of mobile users.

Just ask your phone for the nearest location to buy frozen meat. You’ll probably be told to go to a registered Butcher’s a few miles away or even worse, have your AI erroneously interpret ‘meat’ as ‘meet’. Such glaring inadequacies will need to be ironed out and superior levels of semantic inference introduced before we can start seeing our vision’s of ultramodern AI’s manifest in reality.

Otherwise it appears we’ll continue to fulfil our roles of marketing cattle; eagerly hyping and purchasing the latest ‘advancements’ in AI technology when really we are being deceived into buying ‘gimmicks’ and lining the pockets of the all-encompassing and avaricious brands of Apple, Google and Microsoft.


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About The Author
Samir Kadri is a content writer and co-editor for the Just SEO newsroom. Having run a multitude of social media campaigns over the past few years, he is hugely knowledgeable about how to generate a buzz worldwide, and regularly writes news and advice on the area of social media marketing.

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