What Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant Say About the Coronavirus
- 3/9: Google removes Google Assistant Actions related to the coronavirus.
- 3/17: Alexa removes and limits coronavirus-related skills.
- 3/22: Siri adds coronavirus assessment.
- 3/24: Google Assistant adds coronavirus tips.
People want information about the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, as it continues to spread. Plenty of people are likely to turn to voice assistants on their phones and smart speakers to get answers. As an experiment, we asked Google Assistant, Alexa, and Siri about the coronavirus.
Turn to Public Health Agencies
Siri responds to questions about the coronavirus with a suggestion link to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention website, without any extra detail. Asking for news about the virus offers some headlines, but the voice assistant is not a font of detail. Google Assistant similarly points to the CDC for answers and pulls up news stories. Notably, there are quite a few Google Actions related to the disease, including a quiz. Alexa differs from its rivals when asked point-blank what the coronavirus is. It pulls up an article from the World Health Organization to read out loud about the disease, how it spreads, and steps to take to protect yourself, meaning washing hands works, masks don’t.
Interest in answers about the virus is also evident on Alexa Answers, the platform for crowdsourcing answers the voice assistant doesn’t know that Amazon set up last year. The questions are all about the spread and death rate of the disease and the answers provided by users seem to be in line with data from public agencies, albeit sometimes out of date depending on when the answer was posted. Alexa may still be learning the word “coronavirus,” however, as the actual sentences recorded by the voice assistant include variations such as “carotid virus,” “cordova virus,” and “carnivore virus.”
When asking Alexa through a smart speaker, the answer starts with the day that coronavirus was officially designated COVID-19 and then cites WHO information from January and one-day delayed statistics about total confirmed cases and mortality rate. It is a reasonable response. When asked about coronavirus facts, Alexa connects you with the Coronavirus skill created by YuMa-Soft. The skill offered up-to-date information on total confirmed cases worldwide and the number in the U.S. that were current as of today. There are currently nine Alexa skills with Coronavirus or COVID-19 in the title.
As Voicebot’s Voice Assistant Consumer Adoption Report for Healthcare showed in October, more than half of consumers would like to use voice assistants one or more healthcare services. The most popular use was asking about illnesses and symptoms, so people inquiring about the coronavirus is not a surprise. The good news is that the voice assistants seem to be sticking to reliable sources like the CDC and WHO, which are less likely to suffer the accuracy problems to which publicly edited can be prone.