I don't have a Siri phone, but from what I hear it seems to lack the necessary gravitas for anyone in their right mind to use it to make a serious decision. Yeah, where's the nearest Cambodian restaurant but aside from that forget it. I think Siri excels in smartass responses and for many that is more than enough.
Having said that I think there is plenty of room for anyone with a halfgood ad agency to make Siri seem very foolish and irrelevant.
Somewhat off topic: For a Weather Channel or an Accuweather to develop a serious voice assistant they would first have to presuade myself and others that these for-profit enterprises are not just in it for the money with their hyped forecasts. Accuweather with their non-stop tornado ghouls, and Accuweather with many hyped long range hurricane and winter storm forecasts.
There could be many ways to market specialized voice apps. For example, The Weather Channel could market an app that provides highly detailed weather information. Websites and equipment vendors specializing in products for the disabled could market voice dictation programs.
Also, look at how automobile manufacturers are offering all sorts of computer-based products and services into their vehicles, with the ability to select different packages of services. I'm sure this will increase.
So, just think about a specific task for a voice program, and you could probably come up with a Website or sites that offer related products or services.
General purpose consumer voice software that must work out of the box still is far from perfect, as you, Nicole and other iPhone 4S users well know.
Not only does Siri have to understand a huge range of questions, but it has to find the right search engine and database. And it has to interpret that database. For example, when asking Siri about the best smartphone, Wolfram Alpha went to Best Buy's reviews of phones and used a Nokia Lumia 900 review where only four people rated it five stars. So we need to question whether Wolfram Alpha should have used Best Buy (or Best Buy exclusively) and whether it was "smart" enough to analyze the quantity and quality of the reviews.
However, task-specific voice software does much better. Its database can be smaller, faster and more accurate. Also, these programs often can be trained to learn. A person with a strong accent, for example, could teach a voice dication program to understand specific word pronounciations. Also, industry-specific terms, abbreviations, capitalizations, etc. all could be taught to voice dictation programs.
In addition, these programs could work with headsets for better audio quality.
What if there were task-specific voice programs for the iPhone that weren't as wide ranging as Siri, but were much more accurate? And, would people pay for them?
Alan, that's actually big news you're stating. For over two decades, voice-rec hasn't achieved the hopes some startups and analysts hoped it would have. The technology simply couldn't seem to get ironed out enough to go beyond meeting the needs you describe in more or less decent fashion It still was not up to expectations -- even of those who really needed to use it.
So the idea that we could be exiting the voice interaction and voice rec woods at last is really interesting.
If I were to write top ten (or perhaps top five) predictions for mobile for this decade, I'd make "voice assistants" as one of the top. Voice commands have been around for decades (push or say "one" to hear your balance, push or say "two" to....), but only relatively recently have they been good enough for more than very basic use.
Software like Nuance Dragon NaturallySpeaking is used by a fair number of people, especially those who are disabled or have carpal tunnel syndrome, for dictating on a desktop/laptop computer.
But Siri is sparking much greater interest in the "voice assistant" aspects. Samsung, with its new Galaxy S III, has integrated S-Voice -- a Siri knockoff.
But it doesn't matter how technologically impressive these voice products are if the answers aren't accurate!
Hi Alan, I was mostly frustrated about the rain, which we've had a lot of in the past couple of weeks. But it's been hot and sunny the past two days, so I'd now agree with Siri on the weather's niceness. Sorry to hear about your weather woes. I'll ask Siri what you should do to keep cool -- she'll probably tell me she doesn't understand and she can do a Web search to find out, and then not actually do anything. But I can try.
Hilarious, Nicole! And Alan, I think your concerns are very well founded. This example about the smart phone shows me not only that Siri can be programmed and manipulated (no surprise there) but that Apple isn't above tweaking its responses. That certainly doesn't surprise me, either. And I'm no fan of Siri, having had pretty much poor results with it on my iPhone.
That said, the technology has great potetential, which could be hindered if it becomes as you note a "corporate tool" for marketing and PR.
Businesses helped neighbors with Internet access and mobile device charge-ups during Sandra. Following that example, enterprises should consider preparing Internet disaster plans to help the public during disasters.
Mozilla's Firefox OS could be a major advance in building smartphones and tablets with a more cloud-friendly and open interface, but there are still questions of performance and security that will have to be managed.
Law enforcement agencies are poised to use iPhones as facial recognition systems in the coming months. The technical advance promises efficiency but has created a backlash among civil liberties proponents.
It's not Apple or Google "tracking" us that we have to worry about, it's their app developers and their policies on disclosing just what phone data they grab for their apps, and what they do with it. Apple and Google need to force them to disclose.
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