Alongside the iPhone 4S, Apple tonight officially unveiled Siri, its intelligent voice recognition software. It’ll turn your new iPhone into HAL-9000, or so we like to imagine.
Perhaps the most ambitious element of Apple’s 2011 iPhone press conference was Siri. Described in the most basic of terms, it’s Apple’s new voice recognition software, but it’s intended to do much more than just pick out a few basic navigation terms.
Once Siri starts talking back and sounding like HAL-9000, be scared
Siri learns as you use it, building up a profile of your voice and behaviours. From the start, though, it’s designed to be able to comprehend full sentences and extrapolate their meanings – a cut above what Google’s Android phones are currently capable of. Like an attentive little e-butler, Siri can be called upon while you’re within other apps, pulled-up from the bottom of the screen like the existing multi-tasking menu. Then you merely press the Siri button – a microphone – to set the AI to record your voice. You could ask it “What’s the weather like today?” or apparently even something slightly cryptic like “Do I need a raincoat today?”
We imagine Siri functionality will be limited to a Apple’s apps and a handful of quick-off-the-mark developers to start with, but it probably won’t be long until it has its creepy (but infinitely interesting) little tendrils wrapped around just about everything. Siri can be used to transcribe text messages, to search the web or to act as an intelligent Dictaphone. It’s what Apple calls the “coolest feature of the new iPhone 4S.”
Siri - the "coolest" feature of the iPhone 4S apparently
While Siri is remarkably clever, it also requires a data connection (Wi-Fi or 3G) as the complicated task of working out what you’re saying happens off the handset itself. This limits its functionality – and the speed it can potentially work at – but doesn’t stop Siri from being entirely intriguing. Perhaps this is how Skynet got started...
Siri will work with English, French and German languages and should be available come iPhone 4S release time – in beta form – on 14 October.