Virtual assistants, on your phone

Your smartphone can now act as your butler. Here are some virtual assistant apps you can download to make life easier

Shweta Taneja
Published5 Apr 2016, 07:22 PM IST
Iron Man&#8217;s virtual assistant, Jarvis, helps him with his work and day-to-day life. <br />
Iron Man&#8217;s virtual assistant, Jarvis, helps him with his work and day-to-day life.

Love Jarvis, the virtual assistant that Iron Man keeps snapping orders to? Would you like to have a virtual assistant? Now you can set up one on your phone to help you get your life in order.

Free on Android, iTunes and Windows Store. In-app, or additional feature purchases starting from 53.65 onwards

The app lets you choose an avatar for your personal assistant. It gives you news, and lets you search for specific terms and phrases on Google, find locations through Yelp, open the calculator, ask general knowledge questions and get answers from Wikipedia, make calls, send texts and emails and update the calendar and tasks list. If you want some entertainment, it can update your Facebook and Twitter pages, and play music and videos too. In addition, it can also navigate, translate and open other apps installed in the phone, and can be customized as well.

OK Google

Free on Android, iOS and Windows Phone

Holler “Ok Google” into the microphone of your phone and the voice search feature will find what you’re looking for. This includes quick translation to other languages, searching for an item or nearby places, calculations, weather information, flights, songs, navigation, asking general knowledge questions, setting reminders, and more. It also lets you track packages, and book event and flight tickets. If you ask for a restaurant’s location and then wish to see the menu, the assistant will show you the same restaurant’s menu. The Now feature provides information such as traffic conditions on the route to your office, weather updates, and meetings and news you might be interested in.


Free on iPhone

Siri converses with you through voice to send messages and emails, schedule meetings, make phone calls, and analyse your requests to open other apps. It can wake you up, play your favourite song, tell you the scores of matches or the prices of stocks you are following, and give you directions and reminders. It can take dictations in English and Hindi and post notes, emails or social media updates. If you say something like, “Tell my husband I’m running late”, Siri will send him a message. Apple is working actively with car manufacturers to integrate Siri into their car’s infotainment systems.


Free on Android

Meant as a voice assistant for the road, Robin lets you text by voice, find local places to go to, navigate using your phone’s GPS—it even tells jokes. You can ask it for weather information, set reminders and alarms, and get information on parking and traffic conditions. You can personalize the app by getting it to address you by whatever name you want. Robin activates when you press the microphone button or gesture a hello by waving your hand in front of the phone.

Xperia Ear

To be launched this summer

How about a wireless earpiece that acts like your personal assistant? Experia Ear is an exciting technology by Sony. It is a compact, wide-angle lens camera that fits into your earlobe, and can either be attached to your clothes or worn around your neck. Using a proximity sensor to detect if you’re wearing it or not, it whispers to you the latest on emails, missed calls, weather updates and breaking news. You can connect it to your Android device via the near-field communication (NFC) wireless method or Bluetooth. It’s hands-free, and uses facial and voice detection to hear you. It can also capture images by acting as a remote for the paired smartphone, and can play music, audiobooks and podcasts.

Hound Voice Search & Assistant

Free on Android and iOS

Don’t like to swipe or tap many options to get the information you want? Ask Hound a question, and it will immediately get back to you with the results. Hound activates when you say “OK Hound” to the phone and has a very conversational tone. It can tell you about the weather, search local places for you, navigate, search and book hotels with specifics like Wi-Fi and breakfast included, book a cab, make phone calls, send text messages, execute Web searches, set the alarm, check your flight status and even translate words across multiple languages. It is only available in the US currently, and we cannot wait for a global roll-out.


Free on Android, iOS, Windows phones and PCs

Microsoft’s offering for its Windows phone is now available on Android smartphones as well as Apple’s iPhone. Cortana can help you find things in your phone, manage your calendar, track courier packages, find files, chat with you and tell jokes if that is what you need to improve your mood. You activate the assistant by saying “Hey Cortana” and speaking into the mic. Apart from reminders for tasks, there is a “Remind Me” feature to return calls if you missed one or declined to take one earlier.

M by Facebook

Free on Android, iOS, Windows and Web

A hybrid of human and virtual, M is a text-based assistant that opens up in the Facebook Messenger app. This could define the future of virtual assistants, simply because the human element has not been ignored. Each demand you make is being looked at by a human too. Facebook has hired an undisclosed number of team members to cater to your personal demands. This unusual assistant, which was launched for select users late last year and is in the beta stage, can have food delivered to you, as well as sketch for you.

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First Published:5 Apr 2016, 07:22 PM IST
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