Siri was one of the headline announcements at the iPhone 4S launch. Tagged as a virtual personal assistant, the feature uses voice recognition software to integrate with the smartphone’s apps.
Siri interacts with a wide range of the iPhone 4S apps, allowing the user to use their voice to send messages and arrange meetings, to make phone calls and search through the contacts book, to select music, make notes, browse safari or write an email. The languages it is available in are English (US, UK and Australian) German and French.
One of the principle attractions and levels of interest from the virtual assistant is its ability to understand context. The software was originally developed in 2007 although it is only just coming to prominence with the latest iPhone phone deals. It was developed based on artificial intelligence and its primary technical areas are said to focus around a Conversational Interface, Personal Context Awareness and Service Delegation.
But it is the inclusion of context that interested those first to receive the iPhone 4S. Within hours of the first handsets delivered and purchased, Siri was being tested to see how far the software allowed playfulness and interactivity with the user. Questions that have already been posted online include:
“Will you marry me?”
“My End User Licensing Agreement doesn’t cover marriages. My Apologies”.
“Where can I hide a body?”
“What kind of place are you looking for? Mines, dumps, reservoirs…”
The ability of the software to creatively respond to requests is illustrated by asking it a tongue twister, and seeing the different answers provided.
“How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?”
“A woodchuck would chuck as much as a woodchuck could chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood.”
“It depends on whether you are talking about African or European woodchucks.”
“42 cords of wood, to be exact. Everyone knows that.”
Apple bought Siri in 2010 for, it was estimated at the time, around $200million. A video demonstration on the original site the developers designed showed Siri using multiple sources of information to find an Italian restaurant, as well as reading online review, searching via maps and sharing the information found via email, the free application was made available via the app store. When it was announced Siri would feature as part of the iPhone 4S, the app was withdrawn.
The initial reaction of the media that comes with iPhone 4S deals may have been muted but it is Siri that appears to have wowed consumers. Its interactivity with the apps of the iPhone 4S have made it an incredibly popular feature for users of the smartphone. The strength of the iPhone and Apple’s understanding of its market has always been its ability to multitask and integrate apps. Siri does that effectively and efficiently. It also represents the fun angle and the ability of the smartphone to integrate into day to day life. Apple’s real ability when it originally unveiled the iPhone itself was to change how consumers interact with media and their mobile phone not just on a day to day basis, but hour to hour.
Apple will be hoping Siri represents a similar kind of revolution. The fact that the software remains in beta form suggests it is users’ reaction and input that will help shape its future in further updates and new releases for updated models. Even if people don’t make use of it for its personal assistant nature as intended, it should add a new level of entertainment to the iPhone series with its humorous comebacks. In all likelihood a new internet craze will spark off around Siri and its witty retorts.
Simon writes on behalf of Best Mobile Contracts, the UK’s leading mobile phone comparison website.