Siri, Then & Now

As most probably know by now, Siri is Apple’s iPhone 4S digital assistant featuring uncanny voice recognition and conversational interaction. Here’s how Apple describes it/him/her:

Siri on iPhone 4S lets you use your voice to send messages, schedule meetings, place phone calls, and more. Ask Siri to do things just by talking the way you talk. Siri understands what you say, knows what you mean, and even talks back. Siri is so easy to use and does so much, you’ll keep finding more and more ways to use it.

But Siri wasn’t always Apple’s crown jewel and, as an independent company, released an iOS app in early 2010. We briefly touched on it then when Robert Scoble declared Siri the future of the web. Given prior Borg-like Apple acquisitions, I wasn’t particularly floored when the folks from Cupertino acquired Siri just a few short months after launch. But given it’s deep iPhone 4S integration and tent pole marketing, in retrospect, Scoble’s enthusiasm was warranted and I was wrong.

But enough of the historical play by play. When Siri was originally released, I did what any 12 year old boy geek blogger would have and asked it a series of ridiculous questions back in February, 2010. Being curious how Siri has matured in the intervening months, I recruited fellow blogger Andru Edwards of Gear Live to replicate a few of my inquiries on his iPhone 4S…

I’m not quite sure what conclusions we can draw from this, other than our neighborhoods may have differing strengths. But for more inspired Siri shenanigans, check out the research conducted by This Is My Next and Matt Gemmell.

7 thoughts on “Siri, Then & Now”

  1. What I don’t like is that it doesn’t seem to pickup where VOICE CONTROL left off. Why can’t I use it for DEVICE SEARCH, or OPEN CAMERA/APPLICATION. when I say open camera, I get “sorry tivoboy, I am not allowed to do that” When I say “take a picture” it says, “I’m not a very good photographer.”

    Clearly someone thought about these questions to come up with such canned responses for them, but would a simple device SEARCH be hard to do? It would seem quite a practical use of the AI for the user.

  2. I agree strongly with tivoboy. The more I use Siri, the more impressive I find it, HOWEVER the holes it’s left are quite enormous.

    Don’t get me wrong, I think I understand enough of the difficulties behind text to speech and understanding plain language to accept that at least in this early stage, Siri was inevitably going to be fairly limited. But as it stands, Siri can only interact with Safari, Maps, iCal, Reminders, and iPod. (I’m sure I forgot something else in that list).

    It seems like it would have been a simple matter to extend at least app-opening to any app on the device – just listen for open or synonymous terms, followed by the name of any app.

    Where Siri will truly strike gold though, I’m sure, it when Apple open up the API and lets other apps begin to utilize Siri in a deep fashion.

  3. Its cute.

    I’ll mention the number of network problems I’ve run into while using it in the last few days, which others have reported as well. Apple needs to pump up their back end a bit obviously. I think it was John Gruber who first suggested the theory that supporting Siri on the 4S only was simply a way to limit the scale of the back-end problem that Apple would face, and that’s looking more true now.

    Yes in the long run Apple will need to open Siri up, both to more applications from Apple on the phone (probably shorter term) and API’s for other apps on the phone to make use of (like your Navigation app of choice say). I think you can assume those things are coming. What the schedule will be…

  4. It also needs to do AT LEAST what voice control did, but without a data connection. If you have a connectivity problem the ability to voice dial is lost.

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