October 4, 2011

Siri on iPhone 4S.

My son Chris emailed to say he thinks it's creepy and...
If Steve Jobs were still in charge, would he have thought it was a good idea to put Hal the computer from 2001 on your iPhone as a primary feature?
... but I watched the video about it, and... wow! I love it!

And yes, I know, some article in the NYT said brain-imaging shows people literally love their iPhone.

I can tell you the point in the video when I fell in love: 0:50. A woman putting a cupcake batter in the oven tells the iPhone to set the timer.

On second viewing, I was struck by the low-key introduction of a blind woman: We see hands on Braille. She receives a spoken-word message and responds with speech. And that's the end of the video, the music comes up, and it's Ray Charles — he too was, of course, blind — singing "What'd I Say." Perfect!

56 comments:

edutcher said...

Keep it simple.

I've noticed a lot of people who love their phones are not the brightest crayons in the drawer.

I've noticed this because I've almost been broadsided by people in love with their phones.

WV "uninni" Synonym for outie.

Quayle said...

Evil capitalists that invested in Apple and all the attendant software companies.

Evil investment banks that issued Apple corporate bonds!

Evil!

Pure, unadulterated evil!

Jana said...

I'm pleased that, for once, my contract expiration coincides with an iPhone release. My 3G is on its last legs. In fact, it started acting up about a month ago, and for a while I (sort of) joked that somehow Apple was secretly causing my phone to fail at the cusp of the new release.

YoungHegelian said...

The history of voice recognition software is not a pretty one.

I really doubt that an effective voice recognition application can be implemented in an environment as constrained as an iPhone.

Let's talk about it six months after the phone's release and see how it made out.

I'll give you 5 to 1 it's all sizzle and not much steak.

Crimso said...

HAL had a very soothing voice and demeanor. I would quite enjoy hearing his voice come out of an electronic device. Of course, I don't have any AE-35 units in my home...

Sixty Grit said...

"And that's the end of the video, the music comes up, and it's Ray Charles..."

Ray Charles was playing during the entire video.

Fred4Pres said...

I love my old iphone so I suppose I would love even more a new iphone.

rhhardin said...

I predict a great deal of humor or disappointment, depending on the user's outlook.

Leland said...

Looks like the solution for texting while driving. Not that this solution is much better, but at least you don't have to look at the device.

As long as one can turn it off, it's not much of a Hal. My car has similar features, and I enjoy it.

PackerBronco said...

So Apple has caught up with Google Voice? I've had all of that free, built-in with my Android Thunderbolt. The iPhone is behind the curve ...

bagoh20 said...

I bet the government could have made a better one and had it ready 10 years ago.

Cost = 15 times annual GDP.

You do know that Apple has more money than the U.S. Government, and deserves it.

I don't particularly like Apple. They are too proprietary for my taste, and over-hyped, but they do earn their money one way or another, without needing to change the rules. Let see the government do that just once.

Coketown said...

I don't know. Android's voice controls are pretty sophisticated and accurate but nobody I know, including me, uses it. You can text people, call people, navigate places, open websites, all sorts of stuff with voice commands, but most people would still rather do it manually. Probably because the whole "Let there be _______" and it actually happening seems a little blasphemous, even to non-religious people. It's like, "Oh yeah, God? Watch this: Let there be a timer set for 20 minutes." Ta dah.

Ann Althouse said...

""And that's the end of the video, the music comes up, and it's Ray Charles..." Ray Charles was playing during the entire video."

I'm not blind, but my vision-dominance causes brain-deafness.

Doesn't it get louder though? "Comes up"... increases in volume...

bagoh20 said...

My car has voice control too, for the GPS, media, and phone, but it's just harder and slower than doing it manually. It's like trying to tell someone to do it for you who's drunk off their ass, and they still won't got to bed with you, so it's just aggravating.

I'd be really surprised if the voice recognition is that good. It's been around for decades and it hasn't improved much. It's like that flying car that never quite materializes for me.

HA HA HA said...

Just got an Android phone and I would love this feature in the car.

1. Send text messages hands-free, eyes on the road. As it is, I call instead, which is interactive and so much more distracting than just firing off a one-liner.

2. Notes and reminders. Wow.

Android gets pretty close, but you first have to turn the phone on, and then tap "Voice Commands", both of which are hands-on and eyes-downward, so a really bad idea while driving.

YoungHegelian: My Android correctly recognized the word "Androscoggin" while I was driving. I kid you not. Not too shabby. 'Course, you have to enunciate clearly. General speech recognition, like we do it, is much more problematic than recognizing the speech of people who are deliberately trying to be understood by software.

Coketown: I often use voice input instead of typing with my thumbs and no tactile keyboard feedback. I really like it. Much easier, faster, less frustrating. If I've got enough privacy not to look like a complete retard, it's a handy feature.

KLDAVIS said...

With my droid, I'm able to compose and send texts and e-mails by voice while driving or biking, initiate turn-by-turn GPS navigation to pretty much any destination that is marked on Google Maps or play any song or artist in my music library, all with voice commands that have been built into the OS for some time.

Android's voice recognition is unbelievable, because it's backed up by a massive amount of data that Google acquired through their Goog-411 and Google Voice programs.

I'll be curious to see if Apple's can really compete. In the meantime, I really wish people would stop talking about Apple as some sort of thought leader. They are selling a product that already exists, and is free to boot. They are a marketing company, they stopped innovating a long time ago.

YoungHegelian said...

@bagoh20

"[Voice Recognition] been around for decades and it hasn't improved much."

That's because the underlying issues of phoneme recognition and linguistic parsing are still tasks that defy solution with the computer technology we have.

Human brains make it seem so easy, but the best minds in IT have been slogging away at these issues since the 60's.

My favorite example of a linguistic parsing conundrum are parsing the two phrases:

Time flies like an arrow.

Fruit flies like a banana.

madAsHell said...

I remember when I saw my first demonstration of voice recognition in the mid-80's. It was an IBM 370, and it filled a very large room. If I recall correctly, it worked OK for a single individual, but they hadn't mastered the general case.

It came to the personal computer in the early 90's. The vocabulary was limited, and you had to train your computer.

Now it's on your phone....

yeah, yeah....bread used to be a nickel.

KLDAVIS said...

HA HA HA, I bound speech input to a long press of the search button on the bottom bar of my G2X. No need to look at the phone or anything to start controlling it by voice.

bagoh20 said...

I've already been sexted by a female by mistake, which was quite welcome, but now I expect even more such "mistakes".

KLDAVIS said...

YoungHegelian said...
"That's because the underlying issues of phoneme recognition and linguistic parsing are still tasks that defy solution with the computer technology we have."

madAsHell said...
"If I recall correctly, it worked OK for a single individual, but they hadn't mastered the general case."

Except, Google has a massive amount of very specific voice data for the vast majority of Android users, tied to exactly what they were trying to search for. It's not taking random waveform X and comparing it to some generic waveform it was taught for every word in the dictionary. They have wave form X and they know it correlates to words A,B & C for any number of users, personally. I won't pretend to know how it really works, but however they're able to extrapolate, the results are nothing short of astonishing.

Ali Eorse said...

What I do not understand about the new iPhone 4s is that I cannot buy it for the price ($199). I have iPhone 4 from early this year. I am willing to give to someone (who can then get into Apple bandwagon). I cannot buy unless I pay at least twice the amount (over $400).

Apple, this is madness. You can be serious.

Sixty Grit said...

Yeah, I see you working, but since I love listening to music, and think the ever-so-PC-AA-sure-we-are-based-in-Cupertino-but-will-use-SF-for-our-ever-so-hip-urban-hipster-douchebag-backdrop visuals are garbage, I will leave the volume discussion to those better able to analyze it.


According to Wikipedia, which is never wrong, Mr. Charles played Wurlitzer Electric Piano when recording "What'd I Say".

WV: mardici - Italian for Tues. say.

themightypuck said...

What is great about the iPhone now is no more tethering and no more having to back the stuff you buy from iTunes. Welcome to the 21st century Apple ;-)

Coketown said...

Apple should license Siri for free to a company that makes handsets for blind people. It seems cruel to make blind people spend $200+ for a phone that has a retina display, touch interface, and Angry Birds as its main selling points. "Can you see the individual pixels on the screen? Didn't think so! Now try slinging this bird at those pigs. Wow, you really suck."

Cruel. But then, if you're blind and still insist on buying a phone that has zero tactile feedback, I guess you're asking to be taken for a ride. (And yeah, I'm sure there's tons of people ready to chime in about how they know hundreds of blind people, all with iPhones, who simply love them. I don't care.) >:(

Curious George said...

They need to get rid of the feature that requires owners to bore the shit out of everyone they meet by insisting to show them all the things their new iPhone does.

John Lynch said...

Rather have GLADoS.

This one is more like SAL 9000.

John Lynch said...

Now I'm cleaning off the four different programs Apple installed so I could watch that video.

Leland said...

To John Lynch, yeah, I hear you. I'm constantly uninstalling bonjour whenever Apple decides I need a new OS or iTunes updates. I remember when Apple fan boys used to tell me that Apple didn't require as many updates as Microsoft. That technically may still be true, but the annoyance is equivalent enough.

pbAndjFellowRepublican said...

Is this the thread where we admit to loving Apple?

Assuming so, my affair began w/ the first phone. At the time I had a $600 windows based phone that required a lot (on average three hours per week) of IT dept time so that it would work properly w/ the complex interconnectedness and security I wanted. The thing constantly reverted to not allowing access.

Long story short: my iPhone (for less dough--$500) worked perfectly, and it never stopped.

It was love at first functions-correctly.


P.S.
I love that the popup boxes asking me to confirm that I really meant to do something (e.g. Shut Down), has as an affirmation as the default choice. Shockingly, it is true I'm not a total idiot who doesn't know what keys I'm pushing--GET A CLUE MICROSOFT!!

jr565 said...

It's cool (Siri) but I don't really think I'll use voice controls to activate my phone. Talking to your phone telling it to do simple things makes you look like someone who can't do simple things for yourself.
Though, it does have a lot of possibilities for people with various disabilities.
And there is some coolness factor to it, I'll grant. I just see myself performing the various actions before it would even occur to me that I could have the phone do that same action by speaking to it.

Chris Althouse Cohen said...

I just tried out the Google ap on my iPhone to see how its voice recognition works. I did a voice recognition Google search and said, "Siri iPhone 4S" just to see if it could get it. It came up with, and searched for, "fairy iPhone piss." So I'm not very convinced. And if this thing composes the text message and picks out the contact you want to send it to, I think accuracy is pretty crucial.

KLDAVIS said...

"Chris Althouse Cohen said...
I just tried out the Google ap on my iPhone to see how its voice recognition works."

That's poor experiment design. The native functionality on an Android device is entirely different than that of similar apps available on another OS.

Futher, if you've never been a user of any of the Google Voice/Goog-411 type products, your results may suffer, at least at first.

I write entire emails and texts, including the addressee, with only my voice and rarely have any need to correct the system.

Chris said...

Spec-wise, this thing is maybe the 4th best phone out there? And, that's being generous.

It certainly can't compete with the Galaxy S II, which is far more powerful and has better battery life. I'm guessing it can't compete with the Bionic or Atrix, either.

Apple is behind Android, and they aren't likely to catch up. Google has been dominant.

Chris said...

"I just tried out the Google ap on my iPhone to see how its voice recognition works. "

Of course you're not convinced. You're an Apple "fanboy"...what should we expect?

Apple products are pretty much Fisher Price toys for adults. They're overpriced and look pretty.

PatCA said...

I like it too, but question whether I could trust the voice recognition.

"Her" voice also sounds kind of Xtranormal, but that's okay.

Kirk Parker said...

"...would he have thought it was a good idea to put Hal the computer from 2001 on your iPhone as a primary feature?"

Not nearly as mind-boggling as the Searching Eye of Barad Dur showing up when my Droid phone boots up.

Kirk Parker said...

"Android gets pretty close, but you first have to turn the phone on, and then tap 'Voice Commands'"

You have the wrong kind of bluetooth headset. With mine (the cheapest or next-to-cheapest Plantronics available at Office Depot) I just hold down the main button for a few seconds, and off we go. "Off" describes it far too often, alas--contrary to some here, I find the voice recognition pretty darn lame, even when doing something of limited scope like dialing entries in my address book. ("There's only ONE 'Emily' in my address book, #@$#$$#$!!!!, why can't you find it??")

Steven said...

Loving your iPhone is fine. Just don't set it to vibrate and love it, okay?

Fred said...

YoungHegelian,

AIUI, the Siri processing takes place off-phone, like the GPS processing. Saves battery life, and you can toss lots of cycles at it.

jamboree said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DaveW said...

And if this thing composes the text message and picks out the contact you want to send it to, I think accuracy is pretty crucial.

Yeah that's the thing right there. It appears to me they're selling that it will identify needed aps (the timer, weather info, traffic, email etc) and open them and execute by voice command. Note the guy says "text my wife", not identifying her by name.

These are pretty bold claims it seems to me.

I'll believe it when I see it.

rhhardin said...

Armstrong and Getty speculate that the new Apple CEO might be wearing a pager on his belt.

Robert Cook said...

"What I do not understand about the new iPhone 4s is that I cannot buy it for the price ($199). I have iPhone 4 from early this year. I am willing to give to someone (who can then get into Apple bandwagon). I cannot buy unless I pay at least twice the amount (over $400).

"Apple, this is madness. You can be serious."


If you were buying the phone directly from Apple, it would cost much more than even the $399.00 the new 64GB iPhone 4S will cost; your telecom subdidizes the cost of the handunit by selling it to you for cheaper than they paid for it. They make up the difference and then accrue the profit by locking you into a two year contract. You cannot buy a new iPhone for the same subsidized cost as you paid for last year's iPhone because you haven't completed paying your carrier for your current phone.

This is not unique to Apple.

Robert Cook said...

For those skeptical about Siri, I have the original Siri app on my iPhone. I downloaded it for free even before Apple bought the company.

I really have never used it, but after watching the video of yesterday's event, I fired it up and copied some of their demo questions, asking it, "Do I need a raincoat?" and so on. It worked fine...it doesn't speak, but replies by text on your screen. It answered my question about the raincoat with, "It doesn't look like rain tonight," and then brought up the weather forecast, just as was the case with their demo.

I asked other questions and it worked as advertised. Now I'm sorry I haven't been using it all along. When opening the app, it presented me with the message that it has been replaced by a newer, better Siri that "is waiting for me" on the new iPhone 4S, and this version "will be going home October 15."

In other words, it will be disabled on my iPhone 4, as Siri will be exclusive to iPhone 4S. I had thought it had something to do with the required computing power, but now I think it's really to do with giving the new iPhone a unique selling point.

I think the new iPhone will be killer, but my contract runs another 10 months, so I'll be looking to upgrade to iPhone 5 next year.

Harsh Pencil said...

"You can do that on an Android" is exactly what us Apple fanboys have been hearing for more than a decade, just replace Android with PC, or better, replace Android with "my Linux machine."

And they are always right. You can. It just sucks and never quite works as well or as easily. I've never met someone who isn't into the nuts and bolts of gizmos that loves his android phone and I've met many who hate them.

Chris said...

"just replace Android with PC, or better, replace Android with "my Linux machine."

Of course, the big difference between Linux and Android is that Android is the #1 Smartphone OS in the world, and Google's market share is only going to continue to grow.

I'm sick of Apple and the ridiculous mentality they have. Their "Lion" OS (or whatever it's called now) gives me headaches. iOS is behind the curve and still lacks widgets, something I truly enjoy on Android. But to those who think Android voice recognition is bad--I have never had a problem with it, and I barely use it. I've just never felt a need to utilize voice recognition on my phone. We use phones to text, surf the web, and make phone calls...but hardly anyone uses the voice functions.

Shawn L. said...

"If Steve Jobs were still in charge, would he have thought it was a good idea to ..."

They didn't just design the new phone last week, I'm sure he knew and approved of it.

(Sorry, but in the tech press theres TONS of stupid making it sound like Apple was still operating out of a Steve Jobs' garage, and no one else was involved. Ignoring the fact that the people in charge now are people Steve put in charge long ago.. )

John Thacker said...

It is, however, a terrible name in Japanese. In Japanese it's basically a homonym for 尻, shiri, which means "butt." (Japanese doesn't have an "si" sound; "s" before "i" is always pronounced "shi.")

Delayna said...

Is there an app that will take voice on either an Android tablet or an iPad and convert it to text (without having to log in, create an account, send the file away...yaaarrrgh!!)?

Becuz I have been searching both app markets and can't find it.

Robert Cook said...

"Is there an app that will take voice on either an Android tablet or an iPad and convert it to text (without having to log in, create an account, send the file away...yaaarrrgh!!)?"

Try DRAGON DICTATION. I don't know if it's available on Android, but I have it on my iPhone. You have to have 3G or Wifi connection, as it sends your spoken message to their servers, transcribes it, and sends it back to your device, where you can send it as email or text, or save it to your clipboard, to be pasted anywhere you like. It's surprisingly accurate, and fast. It sounds like this would all take minutes to process, but it's really just seconds.

It's free, so there's no downside to trying it to see if it serves your needs.

KLDAVIS said...

"Delayna said...
Is there an app that will take voice on either an Android tablet or an iPad and convert it to text"

In Android, hit the voice command button (varies by device/configuration, but if you have the Google Search bar widget, it's on there in the shape of a microphone) and say, "Note to self..." then dictate to your heart's content.

Delayna said...

THANKS Robert Cook and KLDavis! I will give both of those a whirl--

Simon said...

Chris Althouse said...
"If Steve Jobs were still in charge, would he have thought it was a good idea to put Hal the computer from 2001 on your iPhone as a primary feature?"

Um... Chris... Steve Jobs ceased being in charge of Apple little more than a month ago. Do you really think Apple developed Siri and the marketing campaign for the 4s in the intervening time?

AST said...

Oh great! Now we not only have to be irritated by people talking on their cellphones, we'll also have to listen to them talking TO their cellphones. If I were in a spaceship, having Hal for company wouldn't be bad. But in the midst of crowds this will get old pretty fast. I hope it can be taught to recognize its user's voice. I hate it when my car's bluetooth come on accidentally and tells me "Not understood. Say again."

It reminds me of a joke on SNL about a person with two Clap-On lamps out of sync.

Movies Gallery 2011 said...

Excellent pieces. Keep posting such kind of information on your blog. I really impressed by your blog.
Android app development| Android app developer|