What Siri Says About the Future of Smartphones

Software — By on October 6, 2011 at 6:36 am

The word “siri” is Swahili for secret. Since Apple purchased Siri from Siri Inc., a silicon valley company spawned by defense researchers to capitalize on their advanced algorithms, it’s left up to the imagination as to whether or not the name is intentional. But there’s no doubting that Apple pulled yet another ingenious secretive marketing move by distracting us with iPhone rumors only to keep the most innovative thing they’ve accomplished this year a complete secret. Sure, some analysts will argue that as far as 2011 itself is concerned, iCloud’s rise to the top of cloud computing services was Apple’s biggest success. But ten years from now, the significance of the 2011 debut of Siri will be a secret to no one.

Siri, a native iPhone app announced alongside the iPhone 4S which it will be released on, is a voice-activated personal organizer, secretary, and information getter – in theory. It’s just in the beta phase, but you can be certain Apple is already in the middle of improving upon what hasn’t even bee released yet. Most smartphone owners, especially those who have Android-powered devices, are no strangers to voice-activated apps. These apps, such as GPS navigation and instant translators, are hit-or-miss and rely on no-nonsense statements spoken clearly and without error. But Siri is designed to behave more like an actual assistant. Spoken commands are apparently allowed to be complicated, as well as the tasks that are asked to be performed themselves.

Users can request information about the suburbs of Toronto and Siri will retrieve the Wikipedia article on the subject. Or you can simply ask for showtimes at a specific local movie theater. Lack of complete understanding does not result in an attempt to please you with the default search result: Siri will speak back to you, asking that you clarify your request. Siri will also be a transcriber too – correctly committing to text anything you utter into the iPhone. This applies to email, texts, and even documents. Android users are familiar with a similar program, but it’s not nearly as reliable in determining what words were actually spoken. Siri takes into consideration the natural inflections and stammers of speakers.

A mobile app such as Siri was bound to happen eventually. But Apple’s role as the introductory agent between Siri and the public is proof that such an app is a serious breakthrough. The Siri of 2011 is remarkably impressive, partly because it is innovative and partly because it’s the only one out there. Siri is only going to get more sophisticated as time goes on. Competitors will form, and a new breed of mobile phone will be born. Smartphones will truly become smart enough to behave as a second brain for us to pass along our daily tasks and functions to.

As far as what the true future holds for Siri, only Apple knows the truth. And you can bet that they are going to keep it a secret.

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