01/03/2017 9:05 AM IST | Updated 01/03/2017 10:26 AM IST

AI Wars: Google Takes On Amazon Alexa By Including The Assistant In Phones

The Assistant will feature in phones running on Android Marshmallow and Nougat.

Beck Diefenbach / Reuters

The war over Artificial Intelligence (AI) assistants or personal digital assistants — the kind that are embedded in devices, take verbal orders from you and then perform those tasks for you — is heating up. Amazon's smart assistant Alexa was the highlight of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas in January. Amazon showed that it had built a healthy lead in the Artifical Intelligence race, showcasing Alexa in different gadgets, from smartphones to refrigerator to speakers.

From the evidence at the ongoing Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, Google seems to have taken up Amazon's challenge. Phone-maker LG announced that the flagship LG G6 will come pre-loaded with Google Assistant, and Nokia, Moto and Huawei followed suit. Google executives showed up at each of the launch events to talk about their AI assistant and Android integration with their partners.

Rick Wilking / Reuters

Later, the search company announced that it was bringing the Assistant to all smartphones running Android Marshmallow 6.0 and Nougat 7.0. The Assistant was first announced at Google's last developer conference and then included into the messaging app Allo. Google Assistant was also unveiled as one of the exclusive features of Pixel phones that were launched in October. At the time, Google had stated that there were no plans to bring it to the other Android phones anytime soon.

Currently, besides smartphones, Google Assistant can be found on Google Home smart speakers, Android Wear 2.0 smartwatches and, in limited capacity, on Android TV. Amazon, on the other hand, had opened up Alexa to third party developers and manufacturers back in 2015. And now, as a result, car makers to home appliance makers are installing Alexa in their products.

While Google is a late entrant to the AI wars, it possesses 'search' and machine learning experience on a big scale. Additionally, to improve the Assistant, it has Android. Up until now, the Assistant could only be found in a handful of Pixel phones. But, according to the last Google chart, Marshmallow and Nougat are now running on almost 32 percent Android phones worldwide.

Beck Diefenbach / Reuters

This number is surely going to go up this year and phone makers will be looking to partner with the search giant and put the Assistant on their phones. Google's Assistant has shown promise in many countries, including India, whereas Amazon's Alexa only works in a few countries as of now. Google CEO Sundar Pichai spoke about the importance of AI on many occasions last year, so more announcements in this sector by the company will come as no surprise.

While Apple is yet to demonstrate its assistant Siri's full potential, Google and Amazon are getting ahead in the game. How Google plugs the Assistant to developers at the Google IO this year will be worth watching.