iPhone 4S’s Siri Is The Stuff That The Future Is Made Of
Because so many iPhone users were expecting a redesigned iPhone, the disappointment of the iPhone 4S’s form factor — a reappropriation of the iPhone 4 — and the lack of the larger screen has disillusioned and diminished the excitement for the new iPhone in some circles. But Steve Jobs famously said this about design: “Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”
That’s an important quote to consider while contemplating the coolness of the iPhone 4S — particularly when it comes to Siri.
Now, the early criticism of Siri is that it is little more than a catch-up to what Android has already featured with its voice recognition technology. But it’s important to note that, while Android’s ability to accurately recognize and display the words you speak — for instance, if you are composing a hands-free text message — is quite good, the ability to control an Android smartphone with voice command doesn’t even come close to the early glimpses of Siri.
I would argue that, from what I am seeing, Siri is the stuff that the future is made of.
It was not too many years ago that gesture control was a groundbreaking idea, and Jobs’ commitment to using our digits in stead of a stylus seemed like the wave of the future, when he proclaimed, “We’re going to use the best pointing device in the world. We’re going to use a pointing device that we’re all born with – born with ten of them. We’re going to use our fingers. We’re going to touch this with our fingers.” At that time, our fingers were the best pointing options. Who would have thought that, in 2011, we’d be pointing our iPhones in the right direction with our voice. This is a truly “futuristic” mobile technology.
And unlike Android’s voice command, Siri seems to have a similarly intuitive, artificial intelligence to Google’s own search algorithm, where it can discern your meaning — “catch your drift,” if you will. Google’s technology, known as Latent Semantic Indexing, or LSI, is able to crawl and index web pages so that it understands the meaning and crux of the page’s content. Siri operates in the same manner with what you say: you don’t have to make a perfect match of keyword phrases in order to successfully operate it.
This recent video illustrates what iPhone 4S users can expect from Siri:
And this is just the tip of the iceberg. It remains to be seen how app developers may be able to leverage Siri, and how this technology will continue to grow over time.
That being said, there are some potential caveats to Siri that will not be decided on until the masses get a chance to peruse the iPhone 4S themselves. One consideration is that Siri is still a “beta” technology (as is Android’s voice recognition). Apple recently switched the “New!” tag on their Siri page to “Beta!” (OK — I added the exclamation point), and stipulates that “Siri is available in Beta only on iPhone 4S and requires Internet access.” It is also is only available in a few languages.
Another concern is how well Siri will perform in 3G versus WiFi. Apple’s own promo video shows users using it in 3G environments — such as the jogger rescheduling his meetings — but the video above appears to be running on WiFi. Will the 3G Siri experience be as fluid? Granted, the Android voice recognition works quite well over 3G, but Siri is more high-performance than Android.
Regardless of some bugs that early Siri adopters will have to deal with, there s no doubt that the iPhone 4S ushers in a groundbreaking new technology that offers us a new “design” in the way that Steve Jobs imagines design to be.
By Michael Nace