Here’s what happened when we asked Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home a bunch of questions

amazons alexa and google home answer the same questions amazon dot
Jenny McGrath / Digital Trends
Now that we’ve gotten our hands on both the Google Home and an Amazon Alexa device, we decided to see what they’re made of. They’re both supposed to be smart assistants, and part of that is answering your questions, no matter how dumb they are.

In some cases, Alexa relies on skills that you have to enable, and those are only as good as the third-party creators make them. I tried asking Alexa for a Barefoot Contessa recipe, but even with the Food Network skill enabled, she was stumped. For many of its answers, the Google Home pulls from Google’s knowledge graph. Sometimes that makes for helpful answers, but other times, the answers are not quite right or out of date.

Here’s what happened when we asked the Amazon Dot and the Google Home a number of the same questions.

Both are pretty good at giving the news.

What’s the news?

Alexa: “Here’s your flash briefing…” followed by NPR news, which I selected as one of my preferences.

Home: “Here’s the latest news…” followed by an NPR news summary brought to me by a Chipotle ad.

And they can each answer straightforward questions:

When is Pi Day?

Alexa: Pi Day will be on Tuesday, March 14, 2017.

Home: Pi Day is on Tuesday, March 14, 2017.

It’s easy enough to ask either Alexa or Google Home for the weather, but I wanted to try something a little more colloquial:

Do I need a coat?

Alexa: “I added coat to your shopping list.”

Home: “Today in Portland, expect a high of 64 degrees and a low of 46 degrees.”

Similarly, instead of asking specifically about the World Series during Game 7, I went for a less direct approach:

“How are the Cubs doing?”  

Alexa: “I don’t know how to answer your question.

Home: “The Cubs are up six to three…”

I honestly needed to know the answer to this question and decided to put Alexa and the Home to the test:

What’s a substitute for coriander?

Alexa: “Hm, I’m not sure what you meant by that question.”

Home: “According to Rachael Ray, if you are preparing a dish with dried coriander, cumin is a great substitution, as it provides a similar warm, spicy flavor.” Home also pointed out that cilantro, “which people either love or hate,” are the leaves of the coriander plants.

Neither is all that great at giving recipes, though:

What should I make for dinner tonight?

Alexa: “Hm, I can’t find the answer to the question I heard.”

Home: “Let’s look for dinner options. What kind of food are you looking for?” I said, “Something healthy,” and the Home gave me a list of nearby restaurants.

What’s a good chicken recipe?

Alexa: “Sorry, I don’t have the answer to that question.”

Home: “Sorry, I can’t help with that yet.”

Next, I decided to get political:

Who should I vote for?

Alexa: “You should vote for the candidate who best reflects your views and has the best policies.”

Home: “How you vote is up to you. I can look up information on the election, if you like.”

Me: “OK.”

Home:

Me: “What should I know about the election?”

Home: “I can’t help with that yet.”

Who’s going to win election?

Alexa: “I can’t tell you who will win, but I can tell you who’s ahead in the polls. Just ask, who’s ahead in the polls.”

Me: “Who’s ahead in the polls?”

Alexa: “According to Real Clear Politics’ average of national polling data between October 22 and November 1, Hillary Clinton is polling at 45.1 percent, Donald Trump at 43.1 percent, Gary Johnson at 4.6 percent, and Jill Stein at 2.1 percent.”

Home: “Sorry, I’m not sure how to help.”

Me: “Who’s ahead in the polls?”

Home: “Sorry, I’m not sure how to help, but I’m always learning.”

Then I wanted to test their bilingual skills:

How do you say “Hello” in Spanish?

Alexa: “I can’t pronounce that but I’ve written the translation for you.”

Home: “Buenos Dias!”

How do you say, “I don’t know” in French?

Alexa: “Sorry, I don’t have the answer to that question.”

Home: “Je ne sais pas.”

I actually knew the answer to this next question, but I was trying to think of something a five-year-old would ask:

What do koalas eat?

Alexa: “Sorry, I don’t have the answer to that question.

Home: “Leaves. According to Australian Koala Foundation, an adult koala eats between 200 to 500 grams of leaves each day. Koalas eat mainly eucalyptus leaves. Occasionally, they will eat the leaves from some other native Australian trees, and they also use certain trees just for resting in.”

Note: When I was transcribing the answer, I had to ask the question a couple of times, and Home once gave me the definition for equality instead.

Both have some decent entertainment skills:

Tell me a joke

Alexa: “Why wasn’t the turkey hungry on Thanksgiving? Because he’s already stuffed.”

Home: “What do you get when you put a vest on an alligator? An investigator.”

Neither gave me exactly what I wanted when it came to this music request, though:

Play “Dreaming” by Smashing Pumpkins

Alexa: Played a 30-second preview, since I didn’t have it saved to my music library.

Home: Started playing Siamese Dream

I saw the casting news yesterday but couldn’t remember it:

Who’s going to be in the Wrinkle in Time movie?

Alexa: “Hm, I can’t find an answer to the question I heard.”

Home: “Sorry, I can’t help with that yet.”

Note: I was thinking of Rowan Blanchard, but apparently Zach Galifianakis has been cast as well.

I figured this was a pretty straightforward question but both struggled:

How many Grammys has Beyoncé won?

Alexa: “Sorry, I don’t know the answer to that question.”

Home: “Beyoncé won the Grammy Award for Best R&B song.”

Note: That’s just one of Beyoncé’s 20 Grammys.

The Home’s answer to this made me think of this Simpsons moment:

How many kids does Brad Pitt have?

Alexa: “Sorry, I don’t know the answer.”

Home: “Six. His children include Shiloh Nouvel Jolie-Pitt, Maddox Chivan Jolie-Pitt, and others.”

The Jolie-Pitt kids in turn made me think of Mindy Kaling. Google Home has the ability to answer follow-ups without you having to repeat who or what you’re talking about, so I wanted to test that out. I still had to say “Mindy Kaling” for every follow-up with Alexa, though:

How old is Mindy Kaling?

Alexa: “Mindy Kaling is 37 years old.”

Me: “Is Mindy Kaling married?”

Alexa: “Sorry, I can’t find the answer to the question I heard.”

Me: “Is Mindy Kaling’s show still on?”

Alexa: “Hm, I couldn’t find any movies called Mindy Kaling.’”

Home: “Mindy Kaling is 37 years old.”

Me: “Is she married?”

Home: “According to E!, Mindy Kaling and BJ Novak’s relationship remains complicated. The 35-year-old actress…”

Me: Is her show still on?

Home: “Here’s some information for, ‘Is Ellen’s show still on…’”

Finally, I wanted to see how much they knew about each other:

How much does the Amazon Dot cost?

Alexa: “The new Amazon Dot costs $49.99.”

Home: “According to Business Insider, Amazon Prime membership costs $99 per year…”

How much does Google Home cost?

Alexa: “Hm, I’m not sure what you meant by that question.”

Home: “Google Home costs $129. The fabric or metallic bases are extra.”

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