How Google Now, Siri & Cortana Predict What You Want

Google, Apple and Microsoft all have agents that want to be your personal assistant. But how well Google Now, Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana can predict your needs depends on how much you want to share, how wedded to particular platforms you want to be and, in some cases, how much you actively want to help make those predictions happen.
Going Under-The-Hood
Ferreting out how these agents work is a challenge. The companies all have pages that describe Google Now, Apple Siri and Microsoft Cortana. But those are generally focused on what they can do, not how exactly they do it.
There are various help and privacy pages, but those aren’t always helpful. Google Now information is, in part, spread out across a page for the Google App for iOS and another area for Android. Cortana has a nice single page on privacy but still lacks specifics on some points. Apple’s privacy page notes that it doesn’t mine mail for ads, but neglects to

Search Engine Land Source

Baidu Upgrades Mobile Virtual Assistant With Local Commerce Services

Baidu has upgraded its mobile virtual assistant to incorporate voice-enabled local transactions. The virtual assistant, powered by artificial intelligence, is now known as “Duer.” That apparently translates as “Du Secretary.”
One translation of the word “du” I saw was “to study, to learn.” Phonetically, it also sounds like the English word “do,” as in to get things done.
Baidu launched its first virtual assistant in 2012 on the heels of Google Now. Baidu has invested heavily in AI research, which is at the core of the new assistant.
What’s new to the end user is the integration of local commerce and the ability to conduct transactions using Duer, such as food ordering and movie-ticket buying. Baidu will further expand these capabilities to a broad range of local “on-demand” services in the near future.
The new Baidu emphasis on local transactions, rather than knowledge retrieval (e.g., Wikipedia searches), was the original vision behind Siri before Apple bought the company.
The connection between speech-enabled

Search Engine Land Source

Google’s iOS App Now Provides Context-Aware Conversational Search

Google recently updated its iOS app to bring context-aware searching to any content within search results. It allows searchers to ask additional questions without formulating entirely new queries.
Here’s how Google explains the functionality in the app update description:
Say “Ok Google” and ask a question while on any Web page to get smart answers about what you are looking at. Try saying “Ok Google, where was he born” while reading an article about William Shakespeare
Recognizing the context and subject matter of the original search or content, users can then ask ambiguous follow-up questions or use pronouns. In the example below, I searched for Santorini Greece. Instead of reformulating the query and identifying that I’m interested in Santorini hotels, I can simply say, “What are the best hotels there?”

This allows for a rapid succession of follow-up searches. I was permitted to ask a seemingly unlimited number of questions about the queries that I performed. For example, I asked roughly 10 questions in a row about Jimmy Carter

Search Engine Land Source

Report: Apple May Launch Google Now Competitor At June WWDC Event

According to an extensive report in 9to5 Mac Apple is about to bring to market a Google Now and potential search competitor, with comparable “predictive search” functionality. Microsoft’s Cortana also features predictive capabilities that Apple’s Siri lacks.
The new capability, allegedly codenamed “Proactive,” is built partly on Apple’s acquisition of personal virtual assistant Cue (founded as Greplin), in late 2013 for an estimated $35 million to $45 million. Like Google Now and Cortana, Cue used emails, contacts other on-device content to present an overview of to-dos, upcoming meetings and other information such as flight reservations.
According to 9to5 Mac, Proactive will provide time-sensitive and relevant contextual information and become a successor to Spotlight search (although chances are the Spotlight name will be retained; Proactive is too close to acne medication Proactiv).
Beyond the above, the new capabilities will include augmented reality content in Apple Maps:
Like Google Now, Proactive will automatically provide timely information based on the user’s data and device usage patterns, but

Search Engine Land Source

For Task Completion, Cortana Now Integrates More Deeply With Apps

It’s fascinating to consider whether and how “destination search” and virtual assistants will interact in the future. In the case of Microsoft’s assistant Cortana, search is like the “Intel inside.” But Cortana is a much broader and more versatile tool than conventional search.
With Windows 10 Cortana is coming to the PC. Indeed Bing’s Director of Engineering Mike Calcagno sees Cortana as a kind of ambient UI that will be screen-agnostic or screen-independent in the future. Microsoft is betting on Cortana as a differentiator across screens and platforms.
At this week’s Build developer conference Microsoft announced deeper app integration into Cortana. As with Siri and Google, Cortana can launch apps. However Microsoft is also seeking content integration into Cortana so that tasks may be completed in the Cortana UI without necessarily launching the app in question.
Here’s one of the examples Microsoft provides in a blog post:
When integrating with Cortana, an application can choose to get launched or choose to

Search Engine Land Source

Google Launches Custom Voice Actions For Third Party Apps

Alexander Supertramp / Shutterstock.com
Google is further expanding Voice Actions to third party apps to allow users to reach into apps on Android devices, beyond simply launching them. That’s according to a post this week directed to Android developers.
In some cases this appears to enable a version of in-app search:
Today, we launched our first set of partners for custom Google voice actions on Android. This feature will enable people to say things like “Ok Google, listen to NPR” or “Ok Google, show attractions near me on TripAdvisor.” We’re currently piloting custom voice actions with a select group of partners, but we plan to open it up more widely in the future — and we’d love to hear your ideas for actions you’d like to implement.
This development was rumored roughly a year ago. We wrote about it at the time. And it comes just as Microsoft is expanding Cortana integration of third party apps.
The site Android Police dubbed the

Search Engine Land Source