Happy birthday to Siri, the first and most frustrating voice assistant


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It’s been ten years since Apple introduced Siri as a beta service, which means a decade of conversation with our iPhone, then Apple Watch and HomePod.

The more you know about speech recognition, or even the more you think about it, the more amazing Siri is today – and that was amazing when it was announced ten years ago. On October 4, 2011, Phil Schiller called it “the coolest feature in the new iPhone 4S”.

Sadly, Schiller also inadvertently described Siri’s future even as he believed he was commenting on previous attempts at speech recognition.

“Because for decades technologists have teased us with this dream that you are going to be able to talk to technology and that they will do things for us,” he said. “Haven’t we seen this before? Again and again, but it never comes to pass.”

“We have very limited capacities,” he continued. “Just learn a syntax, call a name, dial a number, play a song. It’s such a bummer.”

Notice that he wasn’t the only one to say something when launching Siri which sounds a little different in retrospect. “When I leave Apple there will be an alert,” Scott Forstall said in the demo, “reminding me to call my wife.”

Siri is really amazing

Today we’re used to Siri and Alexa, and we may remember digital voice assistants like Cortana, but we know them so well that we can forget how remarkable they all are. When you ask Siri for something, it sends that audio across the world to a server where it’s analyzed, or just ripped, to figure out what words – and what language – you said.

Then it’s compared to what you said a moment ago, because maybe you are continuing some kind of conversation. And then the instruction is sent back to your phone so Siri can both do whatever you asked and tell you the result.

This has only changed very recently, with Apple’s introduction of Siri on the device, which can sometimes ignore this worldwide sending activity.

Still, it’s a series of steps that are difficult to complete and difficult to complete quickly, but Siri does it over 25 billion times a year.

It’s easy to forget everything he’s doing, in every sense of the word, and it’s also hard to remember that he’s doing it all because it goes wrong so often. Sometimes it’s because some sort of autocorrect failure hit the translation and it thinks you asked for something you didn’t ask for.

But it could also be that Siri isn’t doing what it says it’s done, or rather what you think it says it’s done. Ask Siri on your Apple Watch to set an alarm for 6 p.m. and it will usually complain that there is no alarm for 6 p.m.

When you’re done explaining in words with multiple asterisks that this is why you were asking him to define one, he might do it. Siri might actually set an alarm for 6 p.m. and tell you it is.

But it will not necessarily have activated this 6 o’clock alarm.

In Siri’s pretty amazing job, it looks like the kind of handy fruit that should be easy to fix. It’s not about analyzing difficult sentences, it’s not about choosing a result from a better vocal analysis, it’s not about doing what it says it does.

Calm down, take a deep breath

It’s Siri’s tenth birthday and we wouldn’t want him to go missing, we don’t fail to appreciate how wonderful it is. When you can just shout in the air, “Hey, Siri, remind me to pay my credit card when I get home,” that’s a really amazing thing.

It just loses some of that wonder when right after your Apple Watch says “Done” so does your iPhone. And your HomePod.

It’s less than amazing when you’re in the kitchen and asking your iPhone to set a timer, and it’s your HomePod mini with bionic ears in the den that does it, right before someone else does. close the door to that room.

This aspect is very frustrating as it really should be an example of Apple’s absolute brilliance in sweating out details. When you shout “Hey, Siri,” every device you own that can hear you is listening to you.

They then quickly chat with each other to figure out which device you were talking about. If you’ve raised your watch arm, while your iPhone is in your pocket and the HomePod is in the den, your watch knows how to respond.

Surely, easily, there must be situations where it is not possible to correctly predict which device you wanted. But there certainly can’t be an intra-device communication that makes two devices think you mean them.

Yet it does happen. Watch on your wrist, iPhone in your back pocket. With iPhone in hand, and HomePod on your desktop, two devices can both react, both act, on what you say.

And then sometimes, just sometimes, nothing responds. It’s just as frustrating, but it’s also when you realize how much you actually rely on Siri.

Starting with iOS 5, more of Siri will work on the device instead of needing an internet connection

We are not coming to bury Siri

You are in the middle of a task and you remember that you need to turn the oven on to preheat it for dinner tonight. No one ever remembers that when they have to, but now you can just call out loud and Siri will remember it for you, Siri will tell you when it’s time.

Or you have your arms full as you walk to your front door. “Hey, Siri, unlock the front door,” and if you’ve got a smart lock, you do. “Turn off the lights on the first floor.” Ended.

What time is it in New York? Easy. “Hey Siri, what’s 29 times 3?”

Or you listen to music through AirPods and you can say, “Hey, Siri, play Francisca Valenzuela.” With the smoothest drop in the volume of the music, Siri listens, then plays whatever you want.

Apple devices are better with Siri.

Siri has cold weather, you can ask her the question anytime. You can also tell it to take you home – and it will open Apple Maps with the directions to your house right there.

And Apple has it right with Siri. It doesn’t pretend to yell at you like the Carrot Weather app, but it’s not a robot either.

So sometimes Siri will tell you about Apple launches a little early. Ask Siri for her favorite color and that might dodge the question, but ask yourself yours.

Or if – when – you get a chance to use colorful language with Siri, he might say “I’m not answering that.”

It’s not about “following the conversation like a human does,” as Forstall said later in his demo. But it’s more than just an answer and answer.

Either way, all it takes is one personality, and if you ever hear someone using Siri with one of their alternate voices, it sounds wrong to you.

So if Siri is that bright thing that’s mostly so bright that we can tell how much better it could be, it’s still something remarkable. And ten years of that are worth celebrating.

“Hey Siri, when is your birthday?”

“Surprise!” said Siri, if you ask Oct 4, 2021. “I’m ten today. I tried to throw my own surprise birthday party, but I knew it was going to happen, so I figured you surprise instead. “

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