What’s the latest trend to hit the technology gadget sector in the past year? Talking speakers. Or, rather, artificial intelligent assistants. Intelligent probably isn’t the right word to use. Apple’s Siri may have pioneered the talking assistant craze a few years, and Siri may be the most popular and most used of that AI technology, but all of them remain mostly stupid and useless.
Amazon Echo and Alexa, Google’s oddly named and disembodied Assistant, Microsoft’s anemic Cortana, and Samsung’s copycat Bixby have similar roots in artificial intelligence research, but all suffer from extreme limitations in capabilities and understanding context.
Worse, some research indicates that Siri is not as good in 2018 as Siri from eight years ago when Apple bought the App Store app and incorporated the technology in iPhone 4s.
Nick Heer did some research:
What’s clear to me is that the Siri of eight years ago was, in some circumstances, more capable than the Siri of today. That could simply be because the demo video was created in Silicon Valley, and things tend to perform better there than almost anywhere else. But it’s been eight years since that was created, and over seven since Siri was integrated into the iPhone. One would think that it should be at least as capable as it was when Apple bought it.
Siri’s struggles and the disappointments with other talking speaker systems indicates that technologists think the future is coming far faster than it actually does.
Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates:
We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten.
Not much has changed.
Amazon’s Echo and Alexa team are considered the talking speaker industry leader with a few dozen million devices sold, while Apple’s Siri– which runs on nearly 1-billion devices– is considered the failure.
Maybe so, maybe not, but try any one of those AI assistants and disappointment arrives after just a few questions and requests.
Voice controlled assistants have become a highly competitive space. Apple was one of the first to recognize their potential with its purchase of Siri, but the company has allowed competitors like Amazon and Google catch up and pass it in many respects.
Where is this trend going? Apple is the preeminent device maker so look for Siri to improve in both voice recognition and capability– and show up as more useful in more devices– but don’t look for the technology to become more human-like just because we want it to.
Siri works on iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, Mac, Watch, and HomePod, and likely will show up in future AirPods and Apple’s own branded headphones. But it isn’t just ubiquity that is a requirement for success.
Usability is Apple’s strong suit and that blanket does not cover Siri. Yet.