How Smart Is Siri?

Siri is smarter than you think, according to analysts who have looked more closely at Apple's new personal assistant software, which is offered with every new iPhone 4S.


(Apple iPhone 4S - Siri personal assistant)

“Early reactions have missed the extent of Siri’s capabilities, perhaps confusing it with mere speech recognition (translating spoken words into text, but not interpreting meaning and executing actions) or simple keyword-based voice response systems (like some in-vehicle systems, where quality has been underwhelming),” analyst Shannon Cross writes.

Siri is unique because it meshes voice recognition capabilities with both sophisticated artificial intelligence capabilities and tight integration with the phone’s other software — such as its calendar and address book — and its GPS system. That allows the software to not just recognize a spoken command, but react differently based on where a user is and who the user knows, ask for clarification, and follow a long string of related commands. “Quite simply, we have not seen a demonstration of comparable AI in any other consumer system,” Cross writes.

Frederik Pohl wrote about this very thing. He described the joymaker in his 1965 novel The Age of the Pussyfoot as follows:

Essentially, it is a transponder connecting you with the central computing facilities of the city in which you reside on a shared-time, self-programming basis...

"Self-programming" means that the programmed software includes procedures for translating most normal variations of voice, idiom, accent, and other variable modalities into a computer-oriented sim-script and thence into the mathematical expressions on which the computers operate.

Pohl knew that technology like Siri on the iPhone 4S was coming; he wrote "I do not really think it will be that long. Not five centuries. Perhaps not even five decades." In 1965.

Via Siri More Than Speech Recognition, Analyst Asserts.

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