I use Apple's Siri app on occasion. And it's a decent app for process that pulls information from various sources. However, I wonder if Apple will finally do more with it in iOS 5. After all, spending $200 million to buy it out must really mean that there is value in the app and the talent behind its development that the top echelon at Apple saw.
It is a very useful app as it is if you have never used it. It's a voice query app and I have spend some time here and there to see what I can do with it.
First, you can tap and say what you want to ask. If the question is within reason, like "where am I?", Siri thinks for a bit and offers you what it thinks is the best answer. When I asked it where my current location was, it showed me a map of where I am.
And for lunch, I was able to ask Siri where is the location to the restaurant I'm suppose to meet up with my friends. It was a very easy process. No typing required.
That's great, right? But I want to see voice input/command more tightly integrated into iOS 5. After all, the ability to do this is developing quite nicely on Android. I am certain Apple can offer similar services for its core OS.
The only thing I can think of why Apple has not do so is because it plans on doing voice in that unique Apple way that will amaze us. But time is short. Apple risk falling further behind Google which has invested much resources in this direction.
One issue that I see Apple working on is just how the artificial intelligence, for a lack of a better term, can react to the user. Sure, I am sure Apple can implement the ability for the user to speak into his or her iOS device and have a SMS or e-mail typed up and sent. Or even search for answers as we can now on Siri in a more integrated manner.
But for Apple, that is merely doing what Android can already do. No one would be impressed with that. It must go beyond that. I believe Apple will attempt to create an "understanding" between the iOS and the user.
- Learn from the user's disposition.
- Learn the user's speech and accent.
- Provide this service beyond just English or Spanish. Chinese voice/speech integration is likely something Apple is working hard on as Mandarin is quickly become one of the most important language in education and commerce.
- Ease of use will be an issue. With Android, you will have to activate speech commands. I wonder if Apple will find a way to make the process more seamless. Using Siri requires the user to launch the app. It isn't different from how we would use any other app but Apple will need to make much more natural. I don't know how. For instance, after speaking to Siri, the user has to tap the screen to let Siri know that the question has been completed.
- Apple has to make speech/voice usage more natural and common.
- Apple has to make it so that people will want to use it.
As you can see, Apple has a lot of work and perhaps, there isn't enough time between acquiring Siri, adding new features, and eventually integrating it into iOS.
For general uses, Siri is adequate but beyond a certain level of understanding, Siri has difficulties understanding what I want. And if anyone can truly build a digital companion that provide answers to queries of users in an effortless way, it'll be Apple.