While the rest of the world was running around crashing its head into a wall in excitement over the just-revealed Galaxy Nexus and finalized Ice Cream Sandwich from Google, we had a sit-down with several Android authorities, one of whom, Matias Duarte to be exact, had a rather interesting take on the difference between voice controls in Android and Apple's Siri. As you well know, one of the biggest features on the newest set of Apple mobile hardware and software is Siri, a voice-controlled assistant, where Android still totes several voice-activated features across the board. What we heard from Duarte in Hong Kong was that he's thought long and hard about this situation and has come up with the nerdiest explanation of all.
In response to a question that went more or less like the following: "Can you compare to Siri? Google has voice control, voice command, voice search, voice everything - compared to Siri - what do you think about the competition?" Duarte responded with, first of all, a bit of applause for how Apple is going about utilizing voice controls. After this, he goes directly for the science fiction:
"Well, we don’t like to set ourselves in a head-to-head kind of way, you know, Apple makes terrific products, I think Siri is great; I think it’s really hard in the long run to follow strategy of making kind of an artificial personality. You know, it can be really funny at first, but that uncanny value of just, uh, having a personality that you start to interact with, um, as you would a person, with all the contextual ambiguity you would with a real person – that’s a really challenging approach, and they’re going for it, that’s great.
Our approach is different. The metaphor I like to take is – if it’s Star Wars, you have these robot personalities like C-3PO who runs around and he tries to do stuff for you, messes up and makes jokes, he’s kind of a comic relief guy. Our approach is more like Star Trek, right, starship Enterprise; every piece of computing surface, everything is voice-aware. It’s not that there’s a personality, it doesn’t have a name, it’s just “Computer.”" - Duarte
So it's now C-3PO and Computer. Do you think we can get a Majel Barrett voice-over for Android? I sure as heck hope so. Meanwhile have a look at the Galaxy Nexus and Siri just for fun:
And note that this is only one tiny fraction of the full Q and A session we were part of back on that faithful day earlier this month, the rest coming here to the main news feed soon!
UPDATE: Here's the Complete Ice Cream Sandwich Launch Q and A with Android Authorities now!