Apple’s voice-activated personal assistant Siri has been trashed pretty thoroughly since its arrival last year.Personally, I haven’t been able to really get to know the robo-lady because I didn’t have an iPhone 4S. Now that I’ve got an iPhone 5, I’m pretty excited to see if Siri really is a worthless piece of software or if she’s been unfairly maligned.
So far, we’re off to a rocky start.
I first got Siri added to my iPad through iOS 6. Every morning I check the weather, so I asked Siri, “What’s the weather going to be like today?” She quickly responded, “Nice weather coming up through Tuesday,” and then dropped this awesome surprise on me: “up to 93 degrees and sunny.”
Here in New York City we’ve been treated to a wonderful snap of fall weather for the last week. It’s been pretty much perfect, starting the mornings in sixties, then climbing to the low eighties in the afternoon.
The only downside to this weather is that I know the summer is over. And if it’s already cooling off, I worry we’re in for a bad winter. And that means no golf this winter, which makes me quite unhappy.
So, I was excited that Siri told me it was going to warm up on Saturday. It meant that we might see the temperature climb, and we were therefore going to have a temperate winter and I’d be golfing every weekend. (My mind really did run this many paces ahead of itself after seeing this forecast.)
I shouted out to my wife, “Wow, it’s going to be warm this weekend!” She, not being a dummy like me, expressed some scepticism and asked where I got my forecast. Suddenly I realised it was coming from a robot who has a bad reputation.
(Quick aside: One reason I won’t be using Siri, or voice-recognition software is because when I do ask Siri a question my wife says, “What?” I then have to explain I’m talking to my phone or iPad. And forget about trying to quickly do email by speaking it into the iPad when she’s around, it jsut feels goofy and awkward.)
I decided to double check Siri’s work. Good thing I did. It turns out she was wrong. She gave me the weather for New York, Texas.
If I ask her, “Where am I?”, she can tell me my exact address in Brooklyn, New York. And yet, when I ask her for the weather, she thinks we’re in Texas.
I was still willing to give her the benefit of the doubt, though. I thought, “Maybe this is an iPad glitch. The iPad isn’t like the iPhone. Perhaps the iPhone 5 will be accurate.”
I ran the same test when I got the iPhone 5. I got the same inaccurate results. Other people in my office had the same problem.
The odd thing about Siri’s screw up is that Apple’s notification centre has the right weather forecast. Instead of asking Siri the weather, I can just swipe down from the top of the phone to see the weather.My next test of Siri came this morning when I asked her to give me the Wild Card standings for the National League. My team, the Phightin’ Phillies, are three games out, with just a few left to go, and I’ve been monitoring their progress every day. Instead of giving me Wild Card standings, Siri gave me the overall National League standings, which are useless.
Both of these examples are things Apple has touted as being good uses for Siri. One of its Siri commercials starts with Zooey Deschanel asking Siri about the weather. During the on-stage demo for Siri this year at its developers conference, it talked about adding in sports scores data.
I’m still going to continue testing Siri, but I can confirm that contrary to what Apple says, Siri doesn’t work “right out of the box.”
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