Where Will The Smartwatch Be In 5 Years?

Answering such a question accurately is next to impossible, but it sure is fun to speculate, so let’s speculate.  Those who trade stocks look at past history in order to predict the course trajectory of a given stock. Every day, weathermen look at historical data in order to predict the weather. People who bet on horses always look at the track record of the horse they are betting on. What do stock traders, weatherman, racetrack gamblers have in common? They all look at the past to predict the future. The same technique can be applied when trying to predict the future of the Smartwatch.  What is the one thing that we can look forward to—the one thing that will make the smartwatch really stand out?  The Digital Assistant.  Before we go there, however, let’s look back a few years.

Where Was The Smartwatch 5 years ago (May 2013)?

may-2013To put things into perspective, if we were to time travel back to May of 2013, we would have to wait another 2 years before the first Apple Watch would be released on April 24, 2015. We would have to wait 4 months, (September 4th, 2013), before we saw the first Samsung Gear watch come to market. Apple Pay would not be realized for another 17 months (October 2014), and Samsung Pay would not be made available for 2 years and 3 months (August 2015).

LTE was released on the Samsung Gear S3 in November of 2016, a full three and a half years into our five-year time lapse. You would have to wait a full 4 years and 4 months before LTE was available on the Apple Watch.

The point is, so much has happened within the last 5 years of the smartwatch’s life. As mentioned earlier, to accurately guess what features we will see moving forward is anybody’s guess; but, let’s try.

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The Digital Assistant

Today, we see digital assistants all over the place. Apple has “Siri,” Samsung has “Bixby,” SoundHound has “Hound,” Google has the “Google Assistant,” and Amazon has “Alexa.” Assistants range on a variety of devices, ranging from smartwatches to cell phones to iPods and other stand-alone devices. Even Microsoft uses “Cortana” in its operating system and MacBooks utilize Siri!  Clearly, Digital Assistants are here to stay.

Just yesterday, Google made an announcement regarding Google Assistant, demonstrating its capabilities and what they are looking to employ.  If you have not watched the following video, I highly encourage you to do so because it will shed light on where the future lies.

The Power and Influence of a Digital Assistant

Imagine for a moment, just how much power and influence the digital assistant has over you. It can make recommendations based on what you like or do not like, and though you get to decide what you want to do, the digital assistant does have influence over your decision. If it only offers you Option A or Option B but never tells you that there is an Option C, you are left not knowing about that third option. Your digital assistant is much like a Personal Assistant, except you cannot really fire the digital assistant (easily), because it will always have information on you. On the positive side, the more you use it, the more it gets to know your likes and dislikes.

Now couple the power of such an assistant with something that is attached to your wrist.  Could it be any more convenient?  You can find out anything you want to know by simply asking your wrist.  No need to push a button, just speak.  The great thing is that as time passes, digital assistants only get better.  Not only do they become more accurate, but they learn from you the more you use them.

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Which Digital Assistant Is More Accurate?

This is almost a loaded question because it depends on how you use a digital assistant. For example, are you looking for directions to a given location, or are you looking to know what Asian restaurants are open near you, excluding Chinese and Japanese restaurants? Just how you ask the question, and exactly what it is that you are asking for, will determine the digital assistant that is optimal to use. There are three contenders that we will address in this article; Hound, Siri, and Google Assistant.

The Hound Digital Assistant

houndThere is an up and coming digital assistant contender available for both Android and IOS that is very unique in its approach, named Hound, by SoundHound, Inc. It made a lot of buzz when the beta version was released in 2015 and has been growing in capability and accuracy ever since.  Hound offers a drill-down approach, allowing you to be very specific when asking a question. It provides very impressive results, but only if you ask questions related to news, travel, weather, local searches (think Yelp), rides (Uber), sports scores, flight statuses, or stocks.

For example, you can ask it, “OK Hound… Find Asian restaurants rated 4 stars or more within walking distance of Times Square and exclude Chinese, Korean, and Thai.” Amazingly, it will provide a list of restaurants meeting those criteria. Right now (May 2018), Siri and Google Assistant cannot answer questions that are so detailed, but they can get you home, and answer direct questions or provide web-results.

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There are two issues I have with Hound.

  1. It does not always understand the words that I am saying, even though I speak slowly and clearly.
  2. More importantly, however, the questions that you can ask it are limited to 8 genres. When you ask it how many steps are in the Empire State Building, it will provide, “Here is ‘Steps on Broadway’ near Empire State Building,” which is a complete fail. Why can’t Hound answer this question?  Because it is a question outside of the 8 categories that it functions within. And that’s the problem, it only functions within those 8 categories (for now).

Given the limitations that ‘Hound’ has, I cannot recommend its use as your primary digital assistant, though it might be a good solution for you if you want to ask it a detailed drill-down type of question. Personally, I find it difficult to remember such a long question before it tries to answer it. For example, I might get as far as, “OK Hound… Find Asian restaurants rated 4 stars or more within walking distance,” and then forget the rest of the question because I’m thinking, “within walking distance of what?”

All in all, I think Hound is definitely cool and fun to play with, but not practical for my daily use. I always find myself going back to Google Assistant because it answers far more questions accurately. In other words, the pool of questions that I can ask Google Assistant is by far greater than the pool of questions that I can ask Hound.

Once in a while, I might ask a question that it could answer, like, “where is the closest Thai restaurant”, but any digital assistant worth its salt should be able to answer that question. However, Hound cannot give me driving directions to that restaurant (it passes that responsibility over to the default maps program).

The bottom line regarding Hound is that it feels and functions like a proof of concept. But, then again, it is only 3 years old. When it was first released in 2015, I thought it was really cool, and immediately thought that either Apple or Google would buy it and implement it into their own digital assistant. But that did not happen. Perhaps, in time, it will grow beyond these 8 categories, and be able to answer simple, straight-forward questions like, “What time does Best Buy close tonight?”

Siri vs. Google Assistant

siri vs google assistant

Given the numerous digital assistants out there, which digital assistant is the best one out there?  Well, at present, the two leading contenders (most widely used) are Google Assistant and Siri.  Google Assistant is available for both Android devices and Apple devices; however, Siri is only available on Apple devices.

I verbally asked both Google Assistant and Siri the following questions, and you can see how each digital assistant responded:

“How many miles will I have to drive to get home?”

Siri: “Home is about 11 miles away by car”
Google Assistant: “You are 10.6 miles away from home by car”

“How many minutes will it take me to get to the closest [the name of your bank]”

Siri: I could not find any places matching ‘tender bank’ [I repeated this process 3 times speaking very slow while enunciating].
Google Assistant: With light traffic, it will take you 4 minutes to get to [the name of my bank] by car.”

“How many steps are in the Empire State Building”

Siri: “OK, I found this on the web for ‘How many steps are in the empire state building'” [It provided websites for me to read].
Google Assistant: “1,576 steps.” [It then audibly told me about an annual ‘run-up’ race with an option to read more information if I wanted].

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What Makes a Great Digital Assistant?

One critical criterion that I use for a good digital assistant is that when I ask it a question verbally, I expect a verbal answer. Do not tell me to go read something when I verbalize my question. If I speak the question, chances are that I am not in front of a computer where I can use a search engine to find the answer. Isn’t that the point of having a digital assistant? How practical is it to have Siri tell me to read its findings while driving a car? Siri has been around for 8 years at this point. 8 years is a long time in the tech world. A very long time.

Siri is growing and increasingly becoming more accurate as time passes; however, Google Assistant is arguably the best digital assistant out there because it addresses more inquiries with accurate information than any other digital assistant out there. This should not be a surprise. Google is in the business of providing accurate information. Their stated purpose is “To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” Additionally, they have been aiming to this end since 1998.

Which Digital Assistant is Winning?

google assistant 1

According to Apple, it’s stated purpose is as follows: “Apple designs Macs, the best personal computers in the world, along with OS X, iLife, iWork, and professional software. Apple leads the digital music revolution with its iPods and iTunes online store. Apple has reinvented the mobile phone with its revolutionary iPhone and App Store, and is defining the future of mobile media and computing devices with iPad.”

From this, I read that Apple designs hardware creates software, and invents things. Note that their primary purpose is not to provide information. Is it no wonder that Google Assistant does a better job of providing more accurate search results? Apple is arguably the best at what their stated purpose is, but so is Google. Time will tell. But, right now, it appears that Google Assistant is winning hands down.

Where will the smartwatch be in 5 years?  Ask your digital assistant.

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