Apple’s new voice recognition device/PA has been out in the UK for a little while now. It’s worth mentioning first that I understand Apple is much like the Marmite of the technology world, you either love it or you hate it. As with almost all Apple products on the market, opinion is fiercely divided on it. Many veteran iPhone users will find it easy to use, friendly and helpful, others will never even look at it.
Voice recognition has been knocking around for a long time now, usually with so many glitches and accent faults that it’s written off faster than you can say hands free. However, Apples uncanny ability to make everything cool has meant much bigger hype for the arrival of Siri than other competitive voice recognition technology (VRT).
So what does Siri have that the others don’t? Well, Apple has gone to extra lengths to make Siri much more user friendly than previous VRT, even the voice control on the iPhone 4. It can pick up accents much more easily than previously (granted it still has problems with some accents). You can programme Siri to contain a lot of your personal information which will come in handy when you’re using it. For example Siri knows your name, your address and all your contact details, so you can set yourself a reminder to text someone when you get home, and Siri will know when you are home to send the reminder. That’s pretty special stuff.
The calendar function is also very useful, so you can command Siri to schedule a meeting with someone, maybe from your phone book, and it will notify them if necessary, and also check for any scheduling conflicts, which is handy if you’re driving and want to move things around without waiting for traffic lights and frantically messing about before it goes green again (not something I’d ever do!). Siri also understands more complex commands than some other VRT out there. I can ask if I’ll need a coat this morning and Siri will find a local weather forecast and respond accordingly.
In terms of information management, Siri is very exciting technology which signals a new era in affordable, user friendly VRT.
However, with the good must come the bad. As with any VRT, questions can be raised about how useful this software is, if we look at its overall value. There will always be times when VRT is not useful or appropriate, no matter how good the technology is. If you’re watching a movie at the cinema and want to Google something from the film, I think we can all agree it’s much more polite to discreetly type it in to your phone rather than start barking orders at it. Public places of any kind are always going to be VRT’s main stumbling block for various reasons. I guess the next step would be mind recognition technology, not too far in the future if you have a look at what the clever scientists are doing at the moment with paralysed and comatose patients…I digress. It would also be nice if Siri could connect with third party apps as well, so I could update my Twitter feed on the run, or Shazam the tune I may or may not be jamming to in my car.
So is Siri worth upgrading to an iPhone 4S for? Well it’s a good indicator of things to come, and the direction that iPhones are moving in at the moment. If you don’t expect the world, Siri is fun and useful on occasion.