Siri, the much-hyped personal assistant included in the iOS on the iPhone 4S, seems like a good idea.
How useful to just dictate a text message to someone if you’re too busy! Say if you’re eating, or trying on clothes, or driving. Siri captures your spoken message and sends it off when you hit ‘Send’. Job done.
I am finding out that this personal digital assistant, a product of 40 years of research from seven leading universities including Stanford and UMass, doesn’t quite work if you do not speak native American. Or native English (with the Brit accent).
I put Siri to work this afternoon by getting it to send my husband a simple text message. I wanted to find out if Kwai Onn was coming home from work or going straight to a dinner party later this evening.
Siri comes in three options for English—American, Australian, and the United Kingdom. In this first trial, I chose American Siri (yes, there are two trials). The command for sending a text message via Siri is “Tell (name of person in contact list).”
My first snag was the addressee’s name. I found myself raising my voice just saying my husband’s Chinese name because Siri just did not recognise it. Then I remembered his name was actually abbreviated to Onn in my contacts list. My bad.
Me: Tell Onn.
Siri: I don’t understand what you mean by ‘on.’
(This exchange was repeated a few times before I realized this wasn’t going anywhere.)
I went into my Contacts list, and made a big move. I edited my husband’s name to ‘Andre.’ Siri would recognize this, right?
Siri: Ok. I can send a text to Andre. What do you want me to say?
Me: Are you coming back after work?
Siri: (Captures it in text form so it reads) “Are you coming back after what.”
Me: Are you coming back after WORK?
Siri: Are you coming back off Fellwork?
Me: Are. You. Coming back after WORK?
Siri: I you’ll coming back after Hwai.
Siri: I don’t know what you mean by Hello.
Me: Come back after work!
Siri: Call back Hafdahl luck.
Me: Ok. One last time . . . .!
Siri: The time is 3:22 pm.
Me: (Loud command) Tell Andre !
Siri: Calling Andre . . .
Siri: Sorry Ming, I can’t do that. You’re not listening to the music application.
Me: (finally) Come back after work!
(Note that the meaning of my message has changed to suit SIRI now.)
Siri: Come back often a lot.
I decided to change SIRI’s English to that of merrie old Englande.
Me: Tell Andre.
Siri: Ok, I can send a text to Andre for you. What would you like it to say?
Me: (relieved) Are you coming back straight after work?
Siri: Are you coming backstreet after work.
Me: Will you come home after work!
Siri: When are you all come home after work.
Me: Please come home straight after work.
Siri: Please come home straight after work.
Me: (Encouraged, I decide to elaborate.) We can go together to the dinner.
Siri: Weekend guard together so that dinner.
Comments? What are your experiences with Siri or similar voice-activated technologies? The jury’s still out on Siri, but I’m placing my bets on my own multi-tasking abilities!