Siri can be a tough feature to love.
In theory, a voice-activated personal assistant has plenty of potential to be useful, but right now there are still so many simple tasks like launching apps and browsing the web that Siri just can’t do.
Even some Apple employees admit they are embarrassed by Siri’s performance so far, with one former Apple insider going so far as to say Steve Jobs “would have lost his mind over Siri.”
As it turns out though, Apple really didn’t have much choice but to release Siri as an imperfect feature with the iPhone 4S back in October, at least according to Ash Furrow, who interviewed several times with Apple earlier this year to be part of the Siri development team.
“It’s not a done product yet,” said Furrow, who currently works as the lead iOS developer for the popular photo app 500px. “Apple released it as beta and Apple just does not do public betas.” But for Siri, they had to make an exception.
Here’s how Furrow explained it to us:
“Siri is a form of natural-language processing which takes a lot of conversation power. In order to cover the way that different people speak with all the different dialects, you cant just have a couple dozen people in Cupertino test it and say it works well. You really need a wide variety of people. The idea is you are talking to your phone to tell it what to do. It’s really hard to test every possible combination. They needed the amount of people who are using it now to make it better because they need to train their algorithms to improve.“
In other words, the more that people use Siri, the better it should function for everyone. By comparison, most other features that Apple has introduced are intended to work perfectly (or close to it) on day one.
Furrow suggests that Apple’s real mistake here wasn’t that it introduced Siri before it was ready, but rather that it marketed the feature as a “magical product” that was instantly ready for prime time.
“I don’t think they did the best job of managing people’s expectations,” Furrow told Business Insider. “They’ve done a pretty bad job of saying, “It’s going to be an improving thing that gets better over time so bear with us, it gets better.’ Instead, they kind of portrayed it as a magical product.”
Siri will certainly continue to improve over time, but the question now is whether users will stick with it long enough to see it truly become something magical.