I dislike Macs. I really do. I’m not a fan of their design aesthetic, I’m not a fan of their OS, and I’m really not a fan of people who are slaves to Apple and people who buy Macs because “they’re pretty”. That said, I am supremely impressed with their devices. The iPod, iPad, and the iPhone revolutionized their respective markets. No matter how you argue it, I don’t think you can argue against the drastic impact that these devices have had not only on technology, but on culture as well.
I know that the iPhone 4S wasn’t a drastic upgrade, but for me, I had the 3GS, it was time for an upgrade, and the most intriguing thing about the iPhone 4S was Siri. Listen, ever since I read Batman, I’ve always wanted an Alfred. Since I’m not a billionaire, I can’t have my own butler/bodyguard/manservant/trainer of heroes with me, so I’ll have to settle for Siri. I was cautiously optimistic, but voice recognition technology has failed me before.
The first thing that stood out to me is how integrated Siri is to iOS 5. Nearly every core function of the iPhone could be directly accessed by Siri. Second, the voice recognition of the software was fairly incredible. I speak quickly and with a low growl. I’m incomprehensible to most people. The fact that Siri would translate what I said (taking away ridiculous proper nouns) to probably a 99% fidelity is a great start.
The next big thing advertised was that it is an intuitive interface and you didn’t have to use any stilted language or learn a new syntax to use it. This true for the most part. Commands and questions were answered quickly whether through a web search or Wolfram Alpha. The biggest hiccup though, was it would ask you to confirm the endpoint of certain commands, and that was annoying. Also, the recognition of periods and commas is still a work in progress.
Now, will anyone actually use this? My answer is: Yes. I had serious doubts whether I’d actually speak into a phone in public, but Apple actually put in a very solid directional microphone in the packaged headphones. On a crowded bus, I was able to leave my iPhone in my pocket and speak in a low whisper and text, set reminders, and search for music without any hindrance. I was very impressed with how well it could pick up my voice in a noisy environment and how nondescript it was. I guess the next logical step is a sublingual input, but I think that will have to wait until later.
All in all, I use Siri much more than I thought that I would. It’s surprisingly intuitive and not at all ostentatious. Siri isn’t Alfred, but she’ll have to do.
(For some great fun, you need to check out this site: http://shitthatsirisays.tumblr.com/)