Ever watched Iron Man and found yourself envious of Tony Stark’s artificial intelligence program JARVIS? I know that, here in the reviews room of the LOA Fortress of Solitude, I sometimes long for someone to chat to, someone who will do my bidding, take my email and SMS dictation, seek out the answers to the questions that keep me awake at night and, of course, provide a stable voice of sanity with which to converse.
Well, sadly I’m no multi-billionaire industrialist playboy, but thanks to the myriad wonders of Android apps I too can have something approaching my very own JARVIS to take everywhere with me, like my own mobile butler, to direct me to pubs, field my philosophical, often idiotic, queries and save me from having to do tedious things like typing. Welcome to the world of Virtual Assistants.
As is always the way with the open Android platform, there are options aplenty, but here’s five of my favourites.
Saucy looking, saucily voiced EVA can read and reply to your messages, integrate with Evernote, answer your internet-based questions via True Knowledge and even operate elements of home automation using INSTEON. What I tentatively call ‘thinking’ time tends to stray into too-long territory, but always learning and Bluetooth compatible, for £6.99, she’s a great option for those who count patience as a virtue.
Cheeky as silicon chips, iris is, of course, SIRI spelt backwards. Developed in under 24 hours, iris is still in its alpha phase, but despite that, this chatty chap will tell you jokes (mostly about rednecks or Chuck Norris), do online searches for info, make calls and ‘attempt’ text messages, but mostly you’ll just be kept amused by its comedic responses to your misheard commands and questions.
Officious looking and with an equally officious female voice, Omega weighs in at £3.99 and, armed with full Wolfram-Alpha computational knowledge support, provides answers to life’s harder questions in next to no time. But not just a fact machine, with pin-sharp voice recognition, Omega will call and text contacts, locate businesses, set appointments and alarms, and follow conversations. Omega could well be the last word in V.As…
Neat, straightforward and highly responsive, Vlingo presents you with command options that, with a single tap and talk, allow you to compose and send emails and texts, search online, make calls, open other apps, get directions, update social networks and have your emails read aloud by a very cold sounding lady. But Vlingo’s greatest edge on the virtual competition is the combination of its accurate speech recognition and in-car function which make it ideal for roving road warriors.
I reviewed the free version of AIVC and its chipper sounding Alice back in March and am still impressed with her ample virtual charms, so it should come as no surprise that the £1.48 Pro Version upgrade impresses even more. Rapidly responsive with accurate recognition, the more you use Alice the smarter she gets. Ask questions, open apps, set timers, view calendars, send and receive email and SMS, and update your Facebook all through the awesome power of your voice.