Monday, April 2, 2018

Google Home vs Amazon's Alexa for voice control of automation.

I see someone ask this almost every day in one of the automation groups. As hard as these guys are working to out do each other which is better ALL depends on what you want to do AND what day it is. There is no sign they will even play nice with each other so you still probably want both for the near future if not long term. To answer which is better for you, if you have to have just one, you need to fall back to the old list method. What is it you want from voice control? Any deal breakers? Now look at the latest (like within the last week) reviews and announcements and check off your list. Seriously though if you are getting into home automation $50 is not that much to risk on just trying them both out. Each of you sensors and controlled devices is going to run about the same $30-50. Keep an eye out for sales and you could get a Dot for as little as $29. Google express and Wal-mart had a deal going on for months where you could get $25 back on the $50 price.

Talking to home automation is at least 80% what I use these for. The remainder is almost all adding stuff to lists and alarms / reminders. So here is an exchange I have almost every day which drives me nuts and to me sums up the argument as far as which is better for home automation voice control is concerned. It is not always this bad but it has been all too often.

(Note from memory so maybe not exact phrasing and Alexa follow-up on.)

me: Alexa, turn on TiVo
Alexa: I can not find TV
me: Hey Google turn on TiVo
Alexa: I don't answer to that
Home: Sure for that you might to ask Harmony. Would you like to try that?
me: Yes
Home: I was unable to verify your voice. Please try again or adjust setting in app.
me: Alexa, turn on TiVo
Alexa: I can not find TV
me: Hey Google turn on TiVo
Alexa: I don't answer to that
Home: Sure for that you might to ask Harmony. Would you like to try that?
me: Yes
Harmony: Turning on TiVo.

Sometimes either will even work first try. It is interesting to note though Google always knows I want TiVo and only fails allowing me to turn it on while Alexa fails realizing while there is no TV on my list there is a TiVo. It would seem Alex's problem would be easier for developers to fix given it has a list of items to compare to what I asked for. As in if item is not located, do fuzzy search and ask did you mean [closest match]?  Another example is Iris3 (my north security camera server). Alexa has no trouble at all with Iris2 and Iris4 but is almost pathological in not understanding Iris3. While Google gets it right every time.

On the flip side, I like Alexa's integrated list features better (though both are lacking in my book) and when I'm ready to go to bed I say Alexa, wake me up at 7 AM [pause for response] Goodnight and kicks off the event which confirms everything and if is puts house into sleep mode. I think can almost to the same with Google too (you need to use the word and between command phrases) but the Alexa sequence works well and feels more natural to me. It is also kind of cool that with follow-up turned on (the bit that let's you ask more than one thing with out saying her name again, usually) you can say "thank you" to end an exchange and she gives you a random friendly reply like "You bet!" So for today anyway I'm leaning Alexa. But I have the mix. As of this writing I have an Echo, a Home, a Show, 2 Minis, 7 Dots and 2 Wands.

Oh and as far as answering general questions I think Google has been able to answer about 10% of the time and Alexa about 5% but that could well be what I'm asking.

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