Siri is typical Apple. Plenty of initial pomp and circumstance, but the devil is in the details, so here we are years later, and Siri has become something of a disappointment among certified members of the technorati elite, despite having collected about a billion users since the launch in 2011 with iPhone 4s. Yes, it’s been that long.
Siri is a computer program that works as an intelligent personal assistant and knowledge navigator, part of Apple Inc.’s iOS, watchOS, and tvOS operating systems. The feature uses a natural language user interface to answer questions, make recommendations, and perform actions by delegating requests to a set of Web services. The software, both in its original version and as an iOS feature, adapts to the user’s individual language usage and individual searches (preferences) with continuing use, and returns results that are individualized.
Along the way to massive name recognition, Siri has improved. Though many iterations have arrived in recent years, the most impressive is due on iOS 10, so let’s call that one Siri 2.0, which also brings more third party application functionality, and a glimpse at what Siri holds for the future of a personal intelligent assistant.
What about Siri 3.0, the Siri of the future, the one that completely conquers the tech world. Sure. There are competitors already, and some of them have better functionality and capability here and there. Google’s whatever-name-it-is Now. Microsoft’s Cortana. Amazon’s Alexa. All can do a few parlor tricks that Siri 2.0 cannot, but artificial intelligence being what it is, how Siri learns, adapts, and grows now will determine future success.
That means Siri of the future will need to be more embedded into macOS and iOS to become truly useful. Don’t expect a cloud computer-based sentient digital life form, but an assistant that actually listens and acts upon specific instructions and then habits could be useful, and we’re not talking about a lab assistant for the privileged few. Already Siri works on a billion devices, and though Apple refuses to collect as much information about customers as Google and Facebook do users, there’s more than enough data flowing to help Siri from childhood to adolescence to adulthood.
Siri is a child taking steps toward adolescence, but continued growth and maturity require Apple to ensure that the technology is available to third party application developers in a way that fully integrates apps and operating system with data derived from usage.
We may grumble about how little Siri knows, and snicker at how little Siri can do that is truly useful, but the technology has already improved to the point where voice recognition understanding is pretty good and deeper third party integration will only make Siri a better assistant.
What Siri needs is what Siri is getting. Hundreds of millions of users, and third party application usage that will improve each year for many years to come. Unfortunately, we often think of artificial intelligence in the form of Star Trek’s Commander Data, a full autonomous sentient machine a few hundreds years in the future. Siri is not Data. But Siri is the first big step toward such capability, steps that will move artificial intelligence toward the forefront of man vs. machine.
Let’s give the technology some room and benefit of the doubt. In a few years Siri could conquer the known technology world. After that, maybe Siri becomes the voice of Skynet.