By JD Biersdorfer – Apple included Siri, its virtual assistant, to the iPhone 4s in 2011, which gave its users a hands-free method to schedule appointments, play music, find information and perform other basic tasks.

Less than a decade later, these types of assistants abound in digital devices, including computers, smart speakers, car dashboards and watches, and can make your day easier and make your home run smoothly.

Put Alexa and Siri to work.
Put Alexa and Siri to work.

Although attendees can make life more efficient, it can take time to learn all their skills. If you received a smart speaker as a gift and do not know how to start, or you have only ventured to use the assistant application on your cell phone and want to make it more useful, then we offer you a quick introduction to life with a digital companion. In addition, we have some tips to protect your privacy.


Your first assistant is likely to be the one that was included in your mobile phone, tablet or computer, such as Apple Siri, Google Assistant, Microsoft Cortana or Samsung Bixby. If your assistant is not yet active, you will need to enable it in the device configuration and do some exercises so that the software learns to recognize your voice.

Amazon’s Alexa program can be found on certain phone models manufactured by LG, Motorola and Sony — it is also available on a wide variety of Amazon Echo smart speakers, Windows 10 computers, accessories such as hearing aids and, soon, smart glasses -. You will need Alexa’s iOS and Android applications to configure most Echo hardware.


Voice-activated assistants send recordings of your requests for processing and require some of your personal information (such as contacts and location). They are always listening to work efficiently. If that makes you nervous, you can follow some steps to keep track of your data.

In the configuration of your assistant, you can decide if you want him to listen constantly waiting for commands or activate it at the press of a button. You can also review the recordings and your request history, manage how your data is used and tell your assistant to forget or delete a request.


One of the fastest ways to learn your assistant’s skills is to say, “What can I ask you?” On a device with a screen, you may see a series of suggestions. Simple commands include asking for the weather forecast, requesting information about traffic conditions or reviewing your commitments.

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The manufacturers sites have detailed instructions. Apple offers help to use Siri, Google has the details about its Assistant, Microsoft provides an overview of Cortana’s powers and Samsung invites its users to learn what Bixby can do. Amazon has a handy Alexa user guide.

Put Alexa and Siri to work.
Put Alexa and Siri to work.


Voice assistants on smart speakers have also become the control centers for wirelessly connected devices such as spotlights, continuous broadcast players, thermostats and other smart home utensils. When you buy them, just make sure that the device you are considering is compatible with the assistant you chose.

Amazon dominates the smart speaker market, but Apple has its HomePod and Google offers several devices for entertainment and home security. Samsung’s Galaxy Home speaker for Bixby is under development. And if you’re on the street, Alexa Auto, Android Auto with Google Assistant and Apple CarPlay with suggestions from Siri keeps your companion in one of the seats (Microsoft is moving Cortana away from applications and hardware to take her further to an integration with Office 365).


Like other software platforms, attendees also work with third-party applications – often referred to as “skills,” “actions,” or “capsules.” These applications greatly increase the power of your assistant, such as ordering a pepperoni pizza from your favorite chain for home delivery.

For Siri on iOS devices, open the shortcut application in iOS 12 or later and press the Gallery icon to see a series of preconfigured actions that you can assign. You can also create automation and design your own shortcuts.

The Google site contains a guide to using applications using voice and creating routines. The Microsoft site has a page about Cortana’s skills that you can try. Samsung “Bixby Capsules” can also run routines on certain devices.

The Amazon site has an Alexa Skills guide for the thousands of assistant voice applications – or you can simply say: “Alexa, help me get started with the skills” -. By linking skills, you can also configure Routines for multiple tasks with one command – how to help you start your day with your favorite morning news podcast, turn on the smart coffee maker and gradually increase the brightness of your connected lighting system. Alexa, originally inspired by the voice-controlled computer of “Journey to the Stars,” even has an official “Journey to the Stars” ability and can speak in Klingon when ordered.

Voice-activated software assistants — such as those that include smart speakers, mobile devices, computers and more.