Alternatively referred to as a virtual digital assistance, a digital assistant is a computer program designed to assist a user by answering questions and performing basic tasks.
Today, most people are familiar with the digital assistants on their smartphones such as the Google Assistant on Android smartphones and Siri on iPhones and iPads. Smart speakers like the Amazon Echo and Google Home are also popular examples of a digital assistant. Microsoft Windows 10 users may also be familiar with Cortana, which is Microsoft's digital assistant for the computer.
Note: A digital assistant should not be confused with a virtual assistant or a human who remotely helps a person or company with tasks.
How to interact with a digital assistant
To interact with digital assistant you must use a wake word, which is a word or group of words that your device uses to activate the digital assistant. Wake words include "Alexa," "Computer," "Echo," "Ok Google," "Hey Cortana," and "Hey Siri."
Once you've said the wake word, you would then ask the digital assistant a question. For example, with an Amazon Echo the default wake word is "Alexa," once said a blue light will illuminate to indicate it is ready for a question. You could then ask "What is the current temperature?" to find out what the current temperature is in your area.
Note: If the device you're using does not have a wake word or it has been disabled you would interact with the digital assistant by pressing a button, activating a program, or typing.
Where are digital assistants found?
Today, digital assistants are being found in more and more devices as their capabilities increase, voice recognition improves, and as more people are becoming reliant on them. Below is a list of some of the most common places you may find a digital assistant.
- Smart speaker.
- Instant messaging programs.
- Computer operating systems like Windows 10 and macOS.
- Apple TV and DVRs.
How can a digital assistant help me?
As digital assistants become more popular so do their capabilities and the tasks they're able to perform. Below is just a few of some of the more popular abilities (skills) most digital assistants can perform.
- Answer most basic questions.
- Set alarms, timers, and reminders.
- Get information about the weather.
- Play a song or a genre of music.
- Perform calculations.
- Tell jokes.
- Read audio books.