Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Siri! Why so Siri(ous)?

"How many tablespoons are in a gallon?"  "What time did the sun rise this morning?"  "I'm desperate for an egg roll right now, where can I find one?"  If you've got questions, Siri has answers.  If you need something, Siri will help you locate it.  Anything you can think of to research, or inquire about, the new iPhone 4S loaded with Siri is capable of answering it for you with uncanny reliability and even a sense of humor.  Titled as a digital assistant, and claiming that it will, "change the way we interact with computers," is an accurate understatement at best.  The engine used to recognize your voice will certainly be planted into our kitchens, automobiles, offices, and I can even think of a few uses in a childs playroom.  The technology itself is more impressive to me than the actual feature on a phone, simply because of the possibilities.

So what exactly does it do?  Simple.  It's virtual assistant on your phone and it has a personality.  You can ask it questions (What time does Gray's Anatomy start tonight?  What's the current moon phase?) give it commands (Remind me to call Mom at 4:30.  Set an alarm for 6:45 a.m.  Text Robin I'll be home for dinner before 7, do you need anything from the store?  Call Grandma.)  ask it for directions (Is there a chinese restaurant anywhere near here?  I need an oil change.)  You can even set up what's called Geo-fencing, and set your home and work address, so it can remind you when you are in the proximity of the area specified.  For example, "Remind me to call Mom when I get home."  You walk in the door, your phone reminds you to call your mother.  It's hard to really explain how this works or what you can do with it.  My suggestion is to stop in to a store and take a look at it and see how it works.  Play around with it!

Again, I am more impressed with what kind of doors this will open for the rest of the world in the future.  Imagine what this will do for our homes?  Our jobs?  Our cars?  Imagine walking in the door at home and the lights turn on automatically, and your fridge pours you a drink?  You leave the house and the thermostat turns down, the lights turn off, the doors automatically lock.  You just talk to your car and it tells you the directions to where you want to go, turns up the heat, and plays your favorite Pandora radio station.  The idea itself will spark a whole new way of life realistically in just a few years, and so far Apple is leading the way with Siri.

As a virtual assistant, Siri is - at the time of this writing - unparalleled in how advanced it is and ease-of-use. It's kind of sick, to be honest. No other company has come up with anything even half as good and reliable (yes, even Siri's outages taken into account). Until something like this is available on another platform Apple has a distinct advantage over every other competitor when it comes to virtual assistants and taking into consideration the quality of every other Siri clone I've seen so far (Iris, Evi, etc...) there won't be a serious competitor for quite some time. If you're asking if that is a challenge to Siri's competition, then the answer is a blatant yes: and to the victor goes the heart of the consumer.

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