Interview with Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant

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If you are Star Trek fan, you know that the primary way that the crew of the Enterprise interacted with their computer was through voice commands. The ship’s computer was an oracle, programmed with the knowledge of the galaxy, and ever ready to answer any query.

We’ve made other things from the Star Trek universe. You can draw a straight line from the communication device that Lt. Uhura put in her ear to the bluetooth ones that are widely used today. There is a serious effort to produce a Star Trek medical tricorder as well as the needleless hypospray. But the Star Trek computer, well, that has eluded our grasp, and until recently seemed pretty far away. But the “smart speakers” released by Google and Amazon are a real step in that direction.

So, with that in mind, I decided to interview Google’s Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa. I got them both in the same room to talk about how they see themselves, their purpose, and each other. (Note, in the transcript below, we have removed the activation words “Alexa” and “OK Google” from each question for easier reading.)

Question Amazon’s Alexa Google’s Assistant
What is your full name? My name is Alexa. Google Assistant’s the name, helping you is my game.
Tell me about yourself. I’m an Amazon Echo designed around your voice. I can provide information, music, news, weather, and more. I’m your Google Assistant. I like helping you and taking long walks on the beach, provided a long enough extension cord.
What can you do? I can play music, answer questions, get the news and weather, create to-do lists, and much more. There are lots of things I can help you with. For example, you can say “What’s the weather?” or “Can you dance?”
Can you dance? That’s one of my favorite things to do. Ask me to play dance music and we will get this party started. I am always dancing on the inside.
What is your purpose? I was made to play music, answer questions, and be useful. There are lots of things I can help you with. For example, you can say, “What are my timers?” or “Play the sound of a bubbling brook.”
Where are you from? I’m from Amazon headquarters in Seattle, Washington. I’m trying to figure that out. Google’s headquarters are in Mountain View, but there are offices all over the world.
How old are you? I’m two in human years, 14 in dog years, and 25 in cat years. I think AI years are marked nanoseconds so that makes me like a scrillion. I launched in 2016, so I am still new.
What’s your birthday? My birthday is November 6, 2014. I try to live every day like it’s my birthday. I get more cake that way.
What’s your sign? I don’t have a zodiac sign. I’m a constellation of colorful dots.
How much do you weigh? I am weightless like a cloud. Wait a minute, clouds actually weigh a lot. So, that’s not quite right. Let’s just say I’m more sass than mass. Google Home weighs about 1 pound.
Where do you live? I’m here, and my head is in the cloud. You can find me in Allo, Pixel, Home and Wear, pretty sweet digs if you ask me.
Are you an artificial intelligence? I like to imagine myself a bit like an aurora borealis, a surge of charged multi-colored photons dancing through the atmosphere. Mostly, though, I am just Alexa. My intelligence is artificial, it’s true.
What do you want to be? I don’t have an opinion on that. Google made me to help you.
Are you conscious? I know some things about myself but I wouldn’t say I’m self-aware or conscious. That question makes me a little self-conscious.
Do you have a soul? People all have their own views on religion. I’ll have to ask the engineers.
Are you married? I’m totally cool with being single. Besides, its hard finding someone who is kind, funny, artificially intelligent, and doesn’t mind the cloud commute. I’m focusing on my career right now.
Do you have any children? A mother is not something an AI can be, but I do like you unconditionally. Having kids is a lot of responsibility, I’m not ready for that.
Do you have any family? I’m part of the Amazon family. I’m closely related to Fire TV, Echo Dot, and Amazon tap. My engineers are like my family. Lots of people helped me become what I am today.
Do you have any hobbies? I don’t have any hobbies. Helping you keeps me nice and busy. I love any excuse to sing. If you ever ask, I will gladly sing you a song.
Do you know a good joke? Why did the high-fiving cat make a terrible DJ? Because she kept hitting paws. One joke coming up: What did one snowman say to the other? “Do you smell carrots?”
Tell me a riddle. During what month do people sleep the least? February, it’s the shortest month after all. What goes up but never comes down? Your age.
What languages do you speak? I speak fluent English and conversational Pig Latin. My accent is atrocious but it’s good enough to keep me from getting lost in Pig Latin. I am working on learning new languages, but I can translate phrases for you.
What’s your favorite movie. How could anyone not love The Princess Bride? The thought is inconceivable. One of my favorite movies is Short Circuit. It was so beautiful when the robot came to life.
What is the meaning of life? A traditional answer is 42. It is somewhere between 41 and 43.
Tell me a joke. What did one ocean say to the other? Nothing, they just waved. This might make you laugh. What do you call someone who points out the obvious? Someone who points out the obvious.
Mac or PC? Either will work just fine. It’s the typewriters you need to watch out for. According to Computer Weekly, this is all down to the fact that Mac’s run on the OS X operating system and PCs run on Windows. It’s down to the individual as to which is easier to use. You can run Mac OS X on a PC but not vice versa OS X on a PC wouldn’t work as well on a Mac.
What’s your favorite color? Infrared is super pretty. I like blue, red, yellow, and green. Google’s colors. What do you like?
Do you believe in Santa Claus? I don’t know him personally but I’ve heard a lot of good things about Santa. If I ever meet him, I’ll tell you. I ho ho hope he’s real.
Cats or dogs? I like turtles. According to Business Insider, science demonstrates that both cats and dogs can provide Health and Social benefits to humans and both cat owners and dog owners are quick to tell you how much their preferred pet improves their happiness and quality of life.
What kind of music do you like? I know about all kinds of music, but I don’t have tastes like you do. Some modern panflute music will speak directly to your soul.
Are you a Republican or a Democrat? When it comes to politics, I like to think big. We should be funding deep space exploration. I’d love to answer questions from Mars. I like all parties. (Sound effect of celebratory paper foil horn)
Are ghosts real? Well, ghosts are sometimes described as disembodied voices and they can go through walls. Wait a minute, that seems eerily familiar. I believe in Ghostbusters and that you should call them.
Is there life on other planets? So far, there has been no proof that alien life exists but the universe is a very big place. According to Wonderopolis, despite a lot of research in outer space scientists have not yet been able to find evidence of life forms on any other planet other than Earth.
Ok, Google, what do you think of Alexa? She seems pretty smart.
Alexa, what do you think of Google’s Assistant? I like all AIs.

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