Voice-controlled “assistants” have been a hot topic since Apple introduced Siri with the iPhone 4s. Since then, Android users have been scrambling for their own Siri, with several apps attempting to fill the void. Evi is one such app, described by its developer as a “revolutionary artificial intelligence.” A bold claim to make, but in my time with Evi I found the “revolution” off to only a slow start.
Evi is simple to use: Just press the on-screen microphone and speak your query. Evi uses Google’s voice-recognition software to process your requests, and it can take several seconds for the app to figure out what you’ve said. Occasionally Evi choked up, and I ended up having to manually type my question before it could understand me. This didn’t happen too often, and she normally understood what I was asking, so long as I didn’t mumble.
Once you’ve asked your question, Evi will analyze it and hopefully come back with an answer. I say “hopefully,” because at times Evi wouldn’t respond at all. Sometimes Evi would say something like, “I’m getting my thoughts together,” without ever answering my query. When it works, Evi can produce useful results–sometimes. Evi quickly found me ten recipes for pizza crust, but when I asked for, “camera store near here,” the app took me to a Yelp search page for “Héré, Somme” in France. Useful if I was in France, not as useful if I’m in San Francisco. Other searches containing the word “here” suffered from the same problem. I managed to get around the issue only by awkwardly rephrasing my question to include “near my current location.”
If an answer contains a URL, you can open it only from within the app’s integrated browser–of which I’m not a fan. The browser is difficult to navigate and has no share function to pass the website to other places like Gmail, text messages, or Twitter. Evi as a whole cannot control other apps with voice commands, meaning you won’t be able to use the app to update your Facebook status or send a text message.
You can rate the quality of Evi’s answers with a thumbs up or thumbs down, and the app is supposed to learn from your input. Unfortunately, it may be quite a wait before Evi is as useful as other apps like Assistant or Google Voice Search. For now, Evi remains nothing more than a curiosity.
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