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Siri is the Beginning of a Revolution



As my colleague Steve Przybylski reminds me Margaret Atwood once said something isn’t science fiction any longer once it is actually here. I won’t say that Apple’s acquisition of Siri, and putting Siri’s technology front and center in iOS5 for the iPhone 4S means that we’re there yet, but in my brief experience the seeds of a revolution that is just starting.

I tested Siri out this morning at home once the new iPhone 4S was delivered, activated and set up. It send text messages, it sent emails, it found restaurants and gave me directions. OK, all that is advertised. I then tried it with my Jawbone ERA Bluetooth headset on and got pretty good results, although the recognition was not as crisp as when not on the headset. Siri does learn though.

My colleague Steve Przybylski’s last name was a tough one for it to recognize, but after several tries it managed to give me the right Steve out of my address book. After a few more tries if I said, “text Steve” it just pulls him up without the last name.

But more impressive was when I took the iPhone 4S and Siri for a drive as I headed into work. Using the Bluetooth headset, I managed to send four emails, three text messages and took several notes. This with auto noise and a podcast playing. I won’t say that the recognition was spot on. It wasn’t. But it was close enough for this early stage. And that I think is the key. Apple says Siri is in Beta. I hope that means there is more to come as Siri learns and as Apple moves this platform forward.

When Bluetooth headset manufacturers can give us access to Siri with a programmable button it will make so much sense for those driving. When Apple lets others hook into Siri it will be killer. I really want to be able to take notes while driving into Evernote, as an example.  Evernote allows that, but I’d love this all to be under Siri’s control.

Siri in this early stage has some real limitations. It goofs at times. It seems to have too short of a time if you pause while talking before it moves on. It can’t recognize inflection and so you need to add them by saying “question mark?” or “period.” I can live with that because I feel like I’m in on something new, much like I felt when I picked up my first smartphone or Tablet. (No that first smartphone wasn’t an iPhone, although my first one of those felt pretty special too.) I can just sense that this is not only a noble beginning, but a beginning of something that is going to change how we relate to our devices, and thus our world, in the future.

You can tell I’m excited here. Well, I’ve been this way a few times in my life with gadgets and technology but not with every new gadget or innovation. Already, Apple with Siri has proven that it recognizes that there is great room for innovation in how we communicate digitally. Apple can only fail by not moving this forward as quickly as it can.

I’ll say this if you have an iPhone 4. Siri is reason enough alone to upgrade to a 4S in my view. It promises to be that transformational. I may be completely in a gadget lust frenzy here on this point, but I sense something really exciting ahead.



  1. Anonymous

    10/14/2011 at 12:52 pm

    You’re at the “ohhh ! shiny !” stage. We’ll see if you’re still using it in a couple of weeks. Because BTW, other apps, PCs, Android, have been doing that for ages to general indifference. Hey, do you know that with Siri, you can also call someone by saying “call (someone)” ? It’s maaaagic ^^

    • Anonymous

      10/14/2011 at 2:34 pm

      I think some of the voice command stuff that Android has is awesome. I have used it and like it a Iot think the potential for Siri with AI is even more so. Hate to say it, but this is something you have to use to really appreciate the potential. I was wowed by the demos. I’m more so now that I have it in my hands. Like I said, I felt this way about the first Tablet PC I held. It might not turn out to be what I think it could be. Tablet PCs did not. But it has the potential and I think it is far greater than what Android offers currently.

    • letstalktablets

      10/16/2011 at 9:50 pm

      Similar voice activation technologies have been around for a while, I agree. However, there’s no denying that Siri takes voice activation and AI to a whole new level. The potential is amazing and in my opinion, despite voice activation software existing in other forms for some time, Siri is truly a trend starter.

  2. Adam Truelove

    10/14/2011 at 2:18 pm

    While is Siri is totally awesome, it is not nearly as impressive to people (like me) who have been using Voice Search and Vlingo on an Android phone for quite some time.  I use voice control on my Android phone while driving all the time and it works great.  If Siri does start a revolution its only because of it’s penetration into the market via the iPhone, not because it does anything that hasn’t been done before in some form or another.

    • TonyGoodman

      10/15/2011 at 10:20 am

      Adam, your being short sighted.   I agree that it does little new from a technology standpoint but like the iPod its magic is in the usability and design.   And in this regard I concur with Warner.   This is the beginning of the voice revolution.

    • Tim Davies

      10/17/2011 at 7:01 pm

      When I say: “Schedule a calendar appointment tomorrow for work 12pm-3pm” Into my Android device…it Google’s the phrase. That’s not what I asked my phone to do!

      Siri is not just voice activation, it’s a VUI(Voice User Interface). GUI, being Graphical User Interface is about inputting commands into a computer based of a graphical depiction on a screen. Apple stole this idea(GUI) from Xerox years ago for the Lisa(first computer to use a GUI sold commercially). Now they are doing it with Voice. With Siri AI/voice commands are used to input navigate/commands for either retrieval of data, or inputting an action. Steve Jobs did it twice in his lifetime! First with the Lisa, saving users from the command line, and now he is doing it with voice! He did not create GUI, just as they did not create Siri, but perhaps history will show that they perfected it. It’s a shame he can not see how is company will run with this new idea.

      Android can use a syntax for a very limited number of commands, but it is no way as intuitive as Siri. Voice commands for Android is meant for speech to text, voice commands for Siri is more for navigation, and user execution commands. It’s not part of the the user interface, it IS the user interface. I’m sure Google will compete, they certainly have the ability. Hell, if they really tried I am sure they could do better then Siri with all that algorithmic data they have on human communication.

      Now, lets see Microsoft try and copy it and sell it in japan first…Opps, Apple already did that this time!! Burn!!!!

    • ddemott

      10/31/2011 at 2:18 pm

      I’ve used VLingo for some time as well and quite frankly.. its not nearly as impressive as Siri.  Siri understands context and you can talk to it like a person.  I can say…. “When I get home, remind me to order pizza for dinner”.  Or I can also say stuff like… “Schedule an appointment for a status meeting with Kathy at nine in the morning every Wednesday”.   Then Siri asks me.  “Which Kathy.  Kathy Smith, Kathy Jones or some other Kathy”.  VLingo isn’t even close.

  3. Burketony

    10/14/2011 at 6:43 pm

    Had the opportunity to play with an iPhone 4s at the store today. Wasn’t impressed enough to purchase and replace my aged iPhone 3G. The sales girl tried to demonstrate Siri four times and it was only able to perform one of the four requests. Obviously I was not impressed. She tried to explain it away as still being “Beta”. I’m not paying for Beta.

    • Angelwinters5142

      10/16/2011 at 4:12 pm

      Really? Not worth an upgrade from a iphone 3G??? Even if you thought siri sucks .You are well and truly trolling. 8 megapixels, dual processor, retina display! Absolutly no competition. With what you have is barely usable and I came from iPhone 3G. And it’s fine If you think otherwise but if you aren’t impress with the iPhone 4s then you are not going to be happy with any phone.

    • SiriFan

      10/17/2011 at 5:20 pm

      siri was capacity-constrained this weekend and today, even at stores.  but it is a game-changer and you should give in another try next week.

  4. Roberto

    10/14/2011 at 9:45 pm

    Great, something else for drivers to become distracted by instead of concentrating on their driving.

    • Daledemott

      11/01/2011 at 6:14 am

      I agree w/you to a point.  We don’t need things to distract us from driving.  One thing that IS nice though is that you can talk to Siri w/out looking at the screen.  Much like that guy is running in the commercial.  He isn’t looking at Siri, he simply talks to it.  So yes we don’t need things to distract us from driving however I believe the voice control keeps us from taking our eyes off the road.

  5. Dean Erb

    10/24/2011 at 5:14 pm

    I upgraded to the Iphone 4S from a 3GS and all I can say is wow! the difference is amazing! Siri is also incredible! the only gripe I have is it seems to dislike my girlfriend. siri has recognized my mother as my mom but I cannot get her to recognize my girlfriend. lol! you really have to try Siri first hand before you can compare it to anything I’ve seen. I’ve got siri to do conversions and math for me already without issues, I’ve also sent and got her to read incoming text messages to me. incredible.

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