Let's look at virtual assistants available out there. What is available? and What are the ways to extend them? and Is there a way to compare them?
Available virtual assistants
Google has all my data. Google Now just works. It would be like an extension to my current adopted Google ecosystem (voluntary or involuntary). So while in home if Google has more data to help me answer some questions like "Has Molly responded to my email on request for recipe?" would be great. Though above question is quiet complex Google has all necessary data to answer the question like all mails related to/from molly, mails in context of request for recipe and any recent reply from Molly. Also with Google Timeline I think Google is like a my personal robot following me everywhere helping me in my tasks and it is just getting better. Ofcourse I will be expecting more than what is possible but in few years it should be able to meet expectations. As of now it has standard integrations and the way features are divided in Google Home is through different categories like Enjoy Entertainment (TV and Audio Streaming Control), Get Answers, Manage tasks, Plan your day (calendar integration), Control home and others.
Alexa is coupled with Amazon Ecosystem and works best with Prime subscription. Amazon Alexa works great (I have one and use it all the time for basic tasks at home) and only product out there is market available right now to buy and use. It has integration with lot of new devices. The problem is it doesn't have lot of data about me, it is not intelligent enough to suggest things like Google Now cards and the conversations with Alexa are very inhuman.
Jibo (haven't heard of it? - it is very interesting one)
Jibo if you haven't heard of it is outcome of research at MIT Media Lab. It looks good has camera (not sure if anyone is up for having robotic cameras in house) and decent screen (I think it is projection screen). From the intro video I couldn't figure a lot but the company has been around for long enough to come up with right hardware for the job. It seems to be able to track people and follow people (through camera) thus can have interesting applications like while you are having a skype call the camera can follow your face. It can detect people in house which Alexa fails to address. There is an elaborate Developer API which we will explore in following posts. Overall Jibo merged with Google Home can do a lot. I wish Jibo gets acquired by Google and they make a hybrid device.
Unlike apps for mobile phones the things for virtual assistants can be called as skills. Is the platform similar - for this we would probably have additional posts.