Geek Rants

Why Siri Is Just Better

  • October 29, 2011

Apple has made a big deal out of their roll-out of the Siri voice interface for the new iPhone 4S–and rightly so. I’ve heard a myriad of nay-sayers claim it’s “just voice activation” and “Android has had this for [insert exaggeration here]” or “Vlingo does the same thing.”

Not so, sorry.

See, you’re completely overlooking the entire back-end processing ability of Siri, with an advanced AI engine that interprets, and even anticipates. It’s not just some dumb parse-command-and-execute module.

An example? Someone I know is devoted to his Android phone, and uses the voice commands often (and has taken some opportunity in the past to tweak me for the lack of same on my old iPhone 3GS). Recently we were both out of town and wanted to find directions to a nearby attraction. The problem was, we knew how to pronounce the name but the actually spelling was, well, weird, and we didn’t know that spelling. Well, he tried and tried to get his phone to find this place, trying to guess enough of the spelling and/or attempting other tricks to tease out an actual hit. His phone slavishly tried to follow his attempts, but with no assistance offered. I was in another car so I don’t know the full details of his attempts (I’m sure his carload of giggling schoolgirls didn’t help the voice interface, but guess what? Siri excels at filtering that out, too), but I do know I sat for a long, long time waiting. Finally I decided to step in, pulled out my 4S, and asked Siri to find the place. I got back, “I don’t know how to find [phonetically perfect mis-spelling of what I said] but here are some similar matches.” There, on the short list, was the place. I told her to navigate there, and boom. Done, and it took fewer than 30 seconds.

And this is just the beta. It’s only going to get lots, lots better, and soon.

Never, ever, claim “voice control” is the equal of that sort of power. Just don’t do it.

That is all.

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