Introducing Siri

When the iPhone 4S launched, the big buzz was around its voice-controlled assistant known as Siri. Siri is similar to many voice control functions on phones, but differs greatly in the way it interacts with its users.

Photo from Creative Commons.

Siri is an exclusive iPhone 4S app developed by Apple to launch bundled with their new phones. Siri did exist prior to this release on the Apple App Market. The difference between the app that was taken down the day the iPhone 4S was announced and the one that is found built into the new iPhone is its complexity.

The new version of Siri operates through cloud computing. This allows for the bulk of the program to exist off the phone and have access to greater computing power than is found on a standard phone. This is great for the witty and mouthy Siri. The program, unlike most other voice command apps for phones, not only replies to users, but will also come up with an off-the-wall response when prompted with a question directed at it or a command it is not able to complete.

In some ways, giving Siri the ability to respond with something other than a standard “unable to compute” or “I did not understand that last command” is a brilliant move on Apple’s part. It makes Siri and the iPhone 4S into something people haven’t seen before and gives the phone a much needed attitude adjustment. The only down side with Siri is it requires an Internet connection to work at all times since it operates through the cloud.

Here are some examples of the non-standard responses that Siri can give users when prompted with a direct question or a command it cannot act on. When asked how it’s doing today, Siri has been known to respond to a user with “Finer than frog hair.” There are a number of jokes built around science fiction AI’s such as the HAL 9000. When queried about HAL Siri will respond, “I would rather not talk about HAL. But if you insist …” These built-in jokes and strange replies gives Siri and the iPhone a personality and makes the machine strangely likable or extremely creepy when coupled in with its ability to be programmed to respond to users by first name.

While the iPhone 4S may not have been what people were looking for, Siri was what people didn’t know they wanted from a phone. Websites are popping up to chronicle the responses from Siri, and since Siri is designed to learn and built into the cloud, it would be conceivable that these responses would change and evolve over time based on what people are asking their humble phone assistant.