Perhaps alongside the new 10.5″ iPad Pro, we may also see a new standalone Siri device during WWDC. This would be a device that runs some version of iOS for third party software integrations, and comes with powerful Beats branded speakers, and, of course, Siri. It’s been rumored to share a similar form factor with the current cylindrical Mac Pro, which would make it look a lot like Apple’s competitors from Amazon and Google, but with an Apple spin on the design. Amazon was first on this scene with it’s Echo devices, powered by their own voice assistant, Alexa, and with a wide range of third party integrations that boost the capabilities of the platform. While Google’s Home is catching up, Amazon’s Echo is still, by far, the head of the pack when it comes to third party integrations and capabilities. Plus, I think the Echo looks cooler. Google’s Home serves the same purpose, using Google’s Now technology to build a voice assistant. Both can operate devices around your home, both can answer questions as well as follow up questions, they can search the web, dim the lights, play music, and, in the case of the Alexa, even order you a pizza.
So much for Siri being completely open to developers. Apple will not open Siri up to developers of just any app, only one of seven types of apps. One of those app types only applies to CarPlay. The six other types of Siri extensions are: Ride Booking, Messaging, Photo Search, Payments, VoIP Calling, and Workouts. You might have noticed that there were some important features missing from this. For example, if you want to ask Siri to play your favorite playlist or station from any service that isn’t Apple Music, you’re out of luck. Want to order a pizza? You’d better ask Alexa, because Siri isn’t going to help you.
When you’re performing CPR, you use both hands to press firmly on the person’s sternum (you should break it with the first thrust). You then thrust at a rate of about 100 presses per minute (use Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust” or, if you’re boring you don’t want to make anyone around you panic, the BeeGee’s “Staying Alive”). Basically put, your hands, both of them, should be busy while performing CPR, and since you’re saving someone’s life, you’re probably not worried about rudeness or embarrassment, so you can feel free to shout out to Siri. That’s what Australian mother Stacey Gleeson did when saving her 1-year-old daughter, she simultaneously performed CPR while calling an ambulance using “Hey Siri.”
You’re probably comfortable asking Siri about the weather when deciding what to wear in the morning, setting a timer when you’re cooking, or answering a text while you’re washing your hands… at home. All of those are things you’re probably willing to do when you’re at home, either alone, with a significant other, or with your family. Would you use Siri on a crowded subway train? What about at your workplace? Surrounded by strangers on the street? Probably not. Something about using Siri in public just doesn’t seem right, does it? Well, 97% of those surveyed by Creative Strategies agree, Siri isn’t for public use. 9% 9to5Mac users, a more Apple and technology focused group, report using Siri in public, and 11% are willing to use the feature at work, far more than Creative Strategies’ results would suggest, but still quite low, compared to 45% who use it at home and 33% who use Siri in the car. What’s keeping people from talking to Siri in public? Continue reading →
We already heard that in two weeks, Apple will introduce a Siri API that will allow third party developers to add features to Siri. This alone could make Siri a serious competitor for other digital assistants that already have this capability, such as Amazon’s Alexa, used on the Echo. However, new information about an acquisition Apple made last year point towards a drastically improved Siri in iOS 10. How much could Siri be improved by? Currently, most assistants score a 20% on difficult accuracy tests that test complex commands and assistants’ ability to remember context. With this acquisition, Apple’s Siri could score 90% or higher on those difficult tests.
Apple purchased Cambridge, MA based company VocalIQ before the company could even launch an app that used the technology. Apple snatched the company up as soon as it became apparent that they were creating something far better than anything else on the market. The employees at VocalIQ stayed on after the acquisition, and were even allowed to stay in Cambridge to continue their work on creating the best digital assistant.
Just how great is VocalIQ? Imagine you’re looking for a restaurant. You want sushi, but you have a few extra requirements. You ask it “Find me a sushi restaurant that has a 4 star or higher rating, with WiFi, that’s open late.” Siri wouldn’t be able to keep up with your request, but VocalIQ has no problem finding you the restaurant that fits your requirements. But here’s where VocalIQ really shines: context. If your friends change their minds and now want tacos, you can just ask VocalIQ, “Find me a Mexican place instead.” Siri wouldn’t know what you were talking about, it would just find you a Mexican place. VocalIQ would know that you want a Mexican place instead of a sushi place, and you still want it to have a 4+ star rating, WiFi, and be open late. VocalIQ remembers what you were talking about, so you can easily reference previous conversations. VocalIQ is more like a human assistant than most modern digital assistants. In fact, people who have seen it in action report that it’s good enough to control a full operating system interface with your voice. Also, unlike current voice recognition software, VocalIQ has no issue with accents.
VocalIQ integration into Siri, along with third party integrations, would make Siri the best digital assistant on the market by a wide margin. When Siri first came out, it was clearly in the lead, but since then, the competition has surpassed it in many ways. With iOS 10, Apple might not just play catch-up with third party integrations for Siri, they might blow the competition out of the water with new contextual voice recognition software from VocalIQ. If Siri is going to be vastly improved, we’ll likely find out during the keynote speech at the start of WWDC, June 13th.
Alright, I'm just going to say it: Siri isn't the digital assistant it could be. Siri could be a lot better. In fact, Siri needs to catch up to Amazon, and after Google revealed Google Home, Google is ahead of Apple as well. Even Microsoft's Cortana can take on tasks that Siri can't. While Siri started off as the most impressive digital assistant, it has since lagged behind the competition. This is because Apple has refused to allow Siri to compete with other digital assistants like Amazon's Alexa in the Echo. They didn't do it to intentionally cripple Siri, but instead in the interest of security. Because Siri can access so much of the information on your phone, Apple didn't want to open Siri up to third party developers. This is where competitors like Alexa edge out Siri, they have a much larger number of integrations through third party developers, each one giving Alexa new powers. Meanwhile, Siri is stuck waiting for Apple to add features and negotiate deals with a few third party app developers. However, Apple may have finally found balance between security and openness, and they may be ready to introduce a Siri API at WWDC, allowing developers to add to Siri's capabilities with apps. Apple may even give us a dedicated Siri speaker, like the Amazon Echo, to make Siri a part of your home.
Siri can be found on all of Apple’s iOS devices, the Apple Watch, and even the Apple TV, but it still hasn’t made its way to the Mac yet. The next version of OS X (possibly renamed to macOS) will get Siri integration if these leaks are to be believed. Above, you can see two images. The top one is a Siri dock icon, while the one below it shows the taskbar icon. It’s thought that Siri will be activated with both the dock icon and with “Hey Siri” as well. Continue reading →