Do you often feel like firing your smartphone assistant — be it Siri, Google Now, Ask Ziggy, or a similar app? Now you can send them packing, while you try out Indigo or Maluuba as your new voice-powered pocket pal. Both apps are here for Android and Windows Phone, with iOS on tap for later.
Maluuba just announced a Windows Phone 8 version of its personal assistant app, which has been available on Android since last year. The company was launched just two years ago by students at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, and most of its employees are fresh UW graduates. But while Maluuba’s young team might lack in experience, they seem to have made up for in innovation.
Artificial Solutions is the Europe-based company behind competing personal assistant Indigo, which it showed off at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona last week, and officially plans to release later this month. Unlike startup Maluuba, Artificial Solutions was formed back in 2001 and has since become a major player in natural language recognition technology — mainly through its Teneo brand line of online virtual assistants.
Like other personal assistant apps, Indigo and Maluuba can understand your voice queries, learn your speech usage, and find out for you any information online such as weather, restaurants, events, and product details. Both apps can also add or look up your contacts, check email and appointments, set reminders, update Facebook, send Tweets, and launch your music player, among other tricks.
“We developed 25 feature domains in under a year, some of which are not supported by Siri or any other personal assistant,” says Maluuba CEO Sam Pasupalak. “Shopping is a great example — a user can ask a query like ‘show me some prices for Halo 4′ and Maluuba will provide exact listings of products with prices and details.”
Both apps promise to let you speak naturally without needing to learn rules or commands. Unlike Siri, though, Maluuba or Indigo also let you type queries, for occasions when speaking might be difficult. And both apps even look somewhat similar, each sporting Windows Phone like fonts and tiles, even in their Android versions.
There are some differences between the two apps, of course. Maluuba’s new Windows Phone 8 version includes “results” live tiles that let you add items from your results screens, such as movies, events, or shopping items, to their Start screen. Similarly, “feature” tiles allow let you pin them to the Start screen for quick access to find results nearby.
What sets Indigo apart from Maluuba and other assistants is that Indigo stores your personal settings and recent query history in the cloud. Because of this, you can continue your query thread or “conversation” across multiple platforms and devices — at least for now, any Android or Windows Phone devices.
Indigo also offers an SDK for developers. Artificial Solutions’ Indigo SDK includes Teneo Studio, which allows Indigo to interact with any internet enabled device, such as for recording a TV program or controlling the temperature in a user’s house.
Indigo is due in the Windows Phone Store in a few weeks as a free app for Windows Phone 8. For more information about the beta version, see hello-indigo.com. You can see a hands-on video of Indigo at MWC on CNET.
Maluuba is available on Google Play, in the Windows Phone Store, or at maluuba.com. You can watch a demo of Maluuba for Windows Phone here on YouTube. If you’re in the mood for something a bit less informational but more entertaining, check ot Maluuba’s funny video that disses Siri.