Robin brings Siri savvy to Android smartphones

Siri on iOS 6
Siri beefing up skills for iOS 6, while Android rival Robin enters scene

A new startup is ready to challenge Apple's Siri with a voice-activated, natural language assistant aimed at Android users on the go.

After being introduced by startup Magnifis back in March, Robin is now ready for primetime as a free beta download from the Google Play Store.

Unlike Siri, Robin is targeted primarily at Android users in need of a travel assistant - think of it as the Boy Wonder to your Batman.

Robin is motion-activated to help drivers keep their eyes on the road, offering helpful advice on upcoming traffic conditions and known speed traps.

Robin - not that good of a virtual assistant

Siri, on the other hand, is less of a one-trick pony, capable of sending text messages, playing music and even scheduling appointments, none of which is currently in Robin's utility belt.

App developers also seem to like Siri's chances for success in the long run.

"Siri's not perfect, by any means, but I think it's at least a year ahead of the competition," said return 7 co-founder Amro Mousa, whose popular third-party iOS apps include BillMinder and PlaceTagger.

"Try asking Robin about the weather in Cairo, Egypt, then ask Siri. The former seems to recognize the key word - weather - and shows the local weather.

"Siri seems to be aware (no pun intended) of the context and shows the expected response," Mousa concludes. "This isn't a comprehensive test but it's a good example of Siri's smarts."

Like Siri, Robin is still beta product with its own share of kinks - as HTC MyTouch 4G and HTC Evo 4G LTE owners found out when they couldn't install the app on their device.

But hey, at least it's not limited strictly to one handset, like Siri is. (For now…)