A bit of both.
There’s a good reason why Apple chose to demonstrate a handful of simple tasks when unveiling Siri, the voice-activated “intelligent assistant.” Those tasks just happen to be the very things Siri was designed to accomplish. Thus, when you ask about the weather or local traffic, Siri will respond with a solid degree of accuracy.
When you send a text, Siri is almost what it should be. While I wasn’t expecting perfection, I was hoping that my text (entered verbally by speaking into the phone) would be accurate. It’s close – very close – but you are likely to find a few incorrect words in your message, especially if you are sending a longer text.
What about all of the crazy responses you’ve been hearing about? Upon telling Siri that you “need to hide a body,” the robotic voice will indeed return a series of eye-opening options (dumps, reservoirs, etc.).
Similarly, when I said, “Tell me a joke,” Siri comically responded, “Two iPhones walk into a bar…I forget the rest.”
When I asked, “What is the funniest joke you have ever heard?” Siri responded, “I can’t. I always forget the punch line.”
Clearly these are canned responses that are designed to pick up on one key word: “joke.”
But if you ask it something as simple as, “Search Benzinga” or, more specifically, “Search the Web for Benzinga,” Siri will be at a loss for words. After attempting this search three times, Siri came up with “bang singa,” “Benzinger” and “Benzing.” This suggests that Siri is at least attempting to decipher what you are trying to say. And it may very well be smart enough to eventually learn Benzinga, a word that does not currently appear in the dictionary (shouldn’t that be remedied, Merriam-Webster?). But Siri hasn’t learned it yet.
Siri also had trouble differentiating between the word “zinger” and “singer.” It struggled to search the word “pro” and instead searched “fro.” It came to the point where I found myself talking in a slow, somewhat robotic tone to ensure that Siri understood what I was saying. But it never completely understood.
I asked, “How many iPhone 4S phones have been sold?”
Siri didn’t know, so she offered to search the Web. I clicked on the search button that appeared, but instead of taking my whole search and dropping it into Google.com, Siri shortened my search to “How many iPhone 4.”
Needless to say, that search did not yield the results I was looking for.
When I asked Siri to search the Web for my colleague, “Sarah Knapp,” Siri searched for “Sarah net.”
When I asked Siri to search for “Hilary Farrell,” Siri searched for “Hilarita Farrell.” My own name, “Louis Bedigian,” can be a tad tricky. Not surprisingly, Siri couldn’t understand it and searched “Louis etiquette” instead.
After numerous failed searches of friends and colleagues, I attempted to search people by spelling out their names. That didn’t work. Siri can decipher the sound of individual numbers (ex: if you say, “Send a text to 555-555-555,” Siri will do just that), but it seems that it cannot understand individual letters in the alphabet. Not in the context of spelling someone’s name, at least.
Finally I asked, “How much memory do I have left?” But not even that question was simple enough for Siri to comprehend.
For my very last question, I decided to ask what I thought would be the simplest question of all: “How many songs do I have in iTunes?”
Siri replied, “Sorry, I can’t search that.”
Something tells me that this isn’t what people were waiting in line for this morning.
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