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Tried out Siri, Google Now, and Cortana only to find yourself disappointed? Here are a few alternatives to check out, brought to you by Cool Apps and Websites.

We’ve covered free alternatives to Siri 5 Free Siri Alternatives For Android - Which Is The Best? 5 Free Siri Alternatives For Android - Which Is The Best? A few years ago, you’d only see someone talking into their phone if somebody was on the other side. Fast forward a bit and now talking to your phone when you aren’t on a call... Read More  in the past, and rounded up the three major virtual assistants I Used Three Virtual Assistant Firms and This One Won I Used Three Virtual Assistant Firms and This One Won Hiring a virtual assistant is smart time management. We tested three virtual assistant services and found the pros and cons for each. Each test reveals the tips and tricks for picking the ideal personal assistant. Read More  to find out which is best. We’ve even explored using Cortana on the desktop Cortana Arrives on the Desktop & Here's What She Can Do for You Cortana Arrives on the Desktop & Here's What She Can Do for You Is Microsoft's intelligent digital assistant as competent on the Windows 10 desktop as she is on Windows Phone? Cortana has a lot of expectation on her shoulders. Let's see how she holds up. Read More .

But a lot of great alternatives to these apps have popped up since we wrote about any of that, and we wanted to round up a few. Let’s dive right in, shall we?

Hound (Android, iOS): Fast Responses to a Bunch of Questions

Siri, Google Now, and Cortana all have one downside that’s rarely talked about: they’re mind-numbingly slow. Hound is a third-party alternative to those tools that gives you answers quickly. Information about local businesses is particularly impressive, thanks to tight integration with Yelp. You can ask things like “what’s the best Asian restaurant nearby that doesn’t serve sushi” and get a result. It’s kind of amazing.

hound-working

You can even follow up with a question you asked, and Hound can figure out what you mean. For example: if you ask for the weather in Des Moines, and then ask for great Chinese places there, Hound will figure out you meant Chinese Restaurants in Des Moines.

The app integrates with your phone and text messaging app, letting you do things like send a text. And while they can’t offer the system-wide integration of default offerings, it’s impressive how much you can do. You’ll be talking to your phone like a crazy person in no time.

It’s not perfect, but no such assistant is yet. But if you’re usually disappointed with virtual assistants, Hound is worth trying out. It’s useful in ways others aren’t.

Download: Hound for iOS (Free) | Android (Free)

Sirius: The Open Source Siri Alternative

Like the idea of voice commands, but aren’t so sure you want someone else’s server processing your every request? The truly obsessive can set up Sirius, an open source alternative to Siri that you can install on your own server. This is not for beginners: you’re going to need to compile some source code and set up a Linux server to get it to work. But if you’ve got some serious (pun intended) experience, go ahead and give it a spin.

Setting this all up is a little beyond the scope of this column, but I couldn’t round up alternative virtual assistants without mentioning this open source option.

Evi (Android, iOS): Quick Answers to Questions

If the main thing you like from virtual assistants is asking for bits of trivia, Evi could work very well for you quickly. It doesn’t offer the integration features of most assistants, and can’t play music for you, but it’s fast for what it works for.

evi-questions

Again, it’s not perfect, but if you’re looking for an alternative that’s not tied to Apple, Microsoft, or Google’s ecosystem and just answers your questions, it’s worth checking out. Plus, it comes with a matronly British voice, which you might like. I don’t know what you’re into.

Download: Evi for iOS (Free) | Android (Free)

Cloe: Text Messaging Concierge

When you’re looking for a place to eat, sometimes you just want a recommendation: not a list of search results. Cloe is an SMS-based assistant designed to do just that, and even reserve you a seat if necessary.

There’s a waiting list for the service, and unlike others I’ve highlighted here it does not respond to your voice. But there’s a certain simplicity to it that makes it worth checking out.

Google Voice Search (Chrome): Search Using Your Voice Anywhere

It almost seems like cheating to include this, but we’ve somehow not really mentioned it before. If you’re using Google Chrome on the desktop, you can use voice search right now and get a voice response back, just like on your phone. Just head to the Google home page, then click the colorful microphone.

google-voice-search

So far as I can tell, the results are exactly the same as what you can get from Google Now on Android.

google-voice-search-results

There’s a good chance you already knew about this, but if not enjoy!

What Other Virtual Assistants Do You Know About?

We could go on, of course. There’s Amazon’s excellent Echo 7 Creative Uses for Amazon Echo and Alexa 7 Creative Uses for Amazon Echo and Alexa You’ve seen the ads starring Alec Baldwin, but you're still not sure what Amazon Echo does or whether you need one in your home. We’re about to find out. Read More , which works well but requires you buy a specific piece of hardware. And there are so many Google Now tips we could go over, like using it to automate your house How to Use Google Now to Automate Your Home and Life How to Use Google Now to Automate Your Home and Life Google Now can serve as voice control for your smart home gadgets, posting to your favorite social media accounts, and even tracking your health. Read More , or control third party apps like Wunderlist Use Google Now to Control Third-Party Apps with Your Voice Use Google Now to Control Third-Party Apps with Your Voice Google Now isn't just limited to Google services; in fact, it integrates really well with a bunch of popular apps. Read More

But we want to learn from you. What little-known virtual assistant apps, or tips, do you want to share? Let’s chat in the comments below.

  1. Kelsey Tidwell
    March 29, 2016 at 2:04 pm

    I always looked at Google Voice Search as Google Now without the window dressing. Does anybody out there know if it's really the same thing?

    All kinds of analogies possible here, but let me send you some Alabama hillbilly love...

    "Whether it's the front teat or the rear teat, it's still the same cow." Happy day to you all!

    • Justin Pot
      March 29, 2016 at 2:08 pm

      I think they're basically the same thing, yes! I grew up on a dairy farm, and can confirm that each teat is part of the same cow in almost all cases.

      • Kelsey Tidwell
        March 29, 2016 at 2:13 pm

        I just knew you'd fall in with the herd on that one. Be nice and warm your hands up first!

        • Justin Pot
          March 29, 2016 at 2:21 pm

          Speaking of warmer hands, I've got to get some coffee or something, my hands are freezing

    • Kelsey Tidwell
      March 29, 2016 at 2:11 pm

      Oh, one more bit of (semi)useless trivia...

      Dolphin browser for Android has a built-in voice search called "Sonar"...and even though according to an article from back in 2012 when it was released (https://gigaom.com/2012/02/29/dolphin-browser-adds-sonar-useful-voice-search/), it originally referenced Google for information, I believe it was actually a Dolphin app and not Google Voice Search underneath.

      For a long time there, Dolphin was way better than Chrome on Android for me, and a lot of it was due to Sonar's voice search.

  2. Kannon Yamada
    March 29, 2016 at 1:03 pm

    Nice roundup! After reviewing some home automation device, it looks like there's some open source voice control options available: https://jasperproject.github.io/

    I'm really excited about the prospects of building your own Amazon Echo-like device.

    • Justin Pot
      March 29, 2016 at 2:06 pm

      I'm really excited about reading a Kannon Yamada article about building your own Amazon Echo-like device!

  3. Pravin
    March 29, 2016 at 7:06 am

    Surprising to see "Google Voice Search (Chrome)" on "Never heard" list.

    I used "Assistant" in the past.

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