The first few posts I read about the new Apple iPhone 4s pre- and immediately-post-launch were pretty tepid and ho-hum post-Steve Jobs dismissals. This is why I rarely pay attention when the tech avant garde makes its first pronouncements about a new product release. Turns out that hiding in the new iPhone is some game-changing technology.
Over the next couple of days the word/name Siri started to creep into my conscious as something that might just be interesting about the new version after all. Finally, David Pogue wrote in the New York Times about four new things the iPhone 4s does, the last of which made the hairs on the back of my neck tingle with excitement.
He wrote about ‘Thing 4’ that it is: “Speech recognition. Crazy good, transformative, category-redefining speech recognition.” He was referring to Siri — a software functionality from a little company that Apple acquired in 2010.
Apparently Siri builds on another voice recognition software, Dragon, that’s been available on iPhones since 2009. Dictate using Dragon and your voice converts to text, subject to the occasional glitch.
What got my attention – and what made Pogue go wild about Siri — is that ‘she’ is billed as a virtual assistant that understands fairly complex commands and questions. But what’s fabulous is that ‘she’ answers questions and provides information in a contextual way.
You can read Pogue’s column, but here are some examples that he gave:
“You can say, “Wake me up at 7:35,” or “Change my 7:35 alarm to 8.” You can say, “What’s Gary’s work number?” Or, “How do I get to the airport?” Or, “Any good Thai restaurants around here?” Or, “Make a note to rent ‘Ishtar’ this weekend.” Or, “How many days until Valentine’s Day?” Or, “Play some Beatles.” Or, “When was Abraham Lincoln born?””
“In each case, Siri thinks for a few seconds, displays a beautifully formatted response and speaks in a calm female voice,” Pogue added.
The idea of the Semantic Web – sometimes called Web 3.0 – fascinates me as it will provide the next advances in communications between humans and computers. If you’d like to know more, check out my post from back in the late winter when I blogged about IBM’s new computer Watson ‘who’ blew away top contestants on a much-publicized match on the TV show Jeopardy.
Watson and Siri promise to be part of a new DNA line of computer technology. What do you imagine or hope we’ll be able to do in computing or online when their offspring come of age and we can converse with our computers and mobile devices?
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