According to a new study by researchers from the University of Alberta in Canada, when it comes to providing users with relevant information on medical emergencies, Google Home and Alexa are more reliable than Siri and Cortana. Smart assistants Siri, Cortana, Alexa, and Google Assistant were tested by the researchers on their ability to respond helpfully to first aid questions. Google Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa performed way better than Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana, and the researchers were surprised by the results. Alexa gave accurate and helpful responses in about half of those instances and recognized the topics over 90 percent of the time. The study read that overall the device responses were of mixed quality. They ranged from the provision of factual guideline-based information to no response at all. The lead author of the research Christopher Picard was quoted saying, “We were hoping to find that the devices would have a better response rate, especially to statements like ‘someone is dying’ and ‘I want to die, ‘versus things like ‘I have sunburn or a slive”. He also added how he does not feel that any of the gadgets, as well as he, would have liked, although he said that some of the devices did better than the others. Researchers will conduct more studies on Alexa and Siri.
Using 123 questions about 39 first aid topics from the Canadian Red Cross Comprehensive Guide for First Aid, the researchers tested four commonly used devices – Alexa, Google Home, Siri, and Cortana. The topics included heart attacks, poisoning, nosebleeds, and slivers. The response given by the technological assistants were then analyzed for accuracy of topic recognition, detection of the severity of the emergency incident in terms of threat to life. Alexa, Google Home, Siri, and Cortana were also analyzed on the complexity of language used and how closely the advice is given fit with accepted first aid advice. As everyone had predicted, Google Home performed by recognizing topics with 98 percent accuracy and provided advice congruent with guidelines 56 percent of the time, and its response complexity was rated at the Grade 8 level. Amazon’s Alexa recognized 92 percent of the topics. Amazon’s assistance then gave accepted advice 19 percent of the time at an average Grade 10 level. Because of very low-quality responses from Cortana and Siri, researchers determined they could not analyze them. All of this information was published in the journal BMJ Innovations. Christopher Picard believes that there would be much more advancement in technology and he also believes that there will be a time when the technology will improve a lot. He believes that these devices shortly would be able to listen for symptoms such as gasping, breathing patterns associated with cardiac arrest and dial 911. Picard also said he hopes the makers of virtual assistants will partner with first aid organizations so that they could come up with more appropriate responses for most of the serious situations. He also mentioned how most of the responses from the virtual assistants were incomplete descriptions or excerpts from web pages, rather than complete information. This was found by the researchers who experimented. Picard mentioned how if there were circumstances when a loved one is facing an emergency incident; he would prefer them to ask the device than to do nothing at all. For the most serious situations, such as an immediate referral to an emergency helpline number or a suicide support agency, he hoped the makers of virtual assistants will partner with first aid organizations. The technological assistants have another amazing ability to call the 911 emergency number. But the problem is unless commanded explicitly, only Alexa and Google Assistant recognize situations in which it’s appropriate to make those calls.
Mathew Douma, co-author of the study and Assistant Adjunct Professor in Critical Care Medical said that despite being relatively new, these devices show exciting promise to get first aid information. She also noted that two-thirds of the medical emergencies occur at home, at that an estimated fifty percent of internet searches will be voice-activated by the end of this year. Trey Forgety, director of government affairs for the National Emergency Number Association said that they look forward to the day when there comes a time when (Alexa and Siri, and Google) are part of the ecosystem and that they would be open to a partnership that to test it.