If you grew up in the eighties and nineties like me, almost all your science fiction is a reality now. Information from far and wide, real-time updates, gadgets in diverse form-factors, and voice and touch interaction with these gadgets.
2011 is the next step as you control your Smartphones with your voice.One of the biggest advancements in mobile phone software over the past few months has been in voice control. Yes, your wish is the command. Give those twiddling thumbs some rest!
Sirion Apple iPhone 4S is clearly the flag bearer of that next leap. Siriis the intelligent personal assistant that helps you get things done just by asking. Currently in beta, Siriunderstands and can speak English, French, and German. Although, Siri can be enabled in any country and you can choose to speak to it in English, French, or German, it is designed to recognize the specific accents and dialects of the supported countries only. Siri works right out of the box, without any work on your part. And the more you use Siri, the better it will understand you. It does this by learning about your accent and other characteristics of your voice.
Apart from the technology progression, Siriallows you to use the paradigm of real conversations to control your iPhone4S, unlike the traditional voice recognition software that requires you to remember keywords and speak specific commands. It lets you use your voice to send messages, schedule meetings, place phone calls, and more just by talking the way you talk. Siri not only understands what you say, but is also smart enough to know what you mean.
Apple illustrates it through this example:
When you ask “Any good burger joints around here?”Siri will reply, “I found a number of burger restaurants near you.” Then you can say “Hmm. How about tacos?” Siri remembers that you just asked about restaurants, so it will look for Mexican restaurants in the neighborhood.
Siri also integrates with other services and uses almost all the built-in apps on iPhone 4S. It finds answers for you from the web through sources like Yelp and WolframAlpha and using location services, it looks up where you live, where you work, and where you are.Siri also uses information from your contacts, music library, calendars, and reminders to better understand what you say.
Siri does face competition from other mobile platforms - Windows Phone and Android.Both have their own voice command tools – Tellme and Voice Actions. Tellme voice command feature was released as part of the Windows Phone 7.5 Mango upgrade in late 2011 (Microsoft had acquired Tellme in 2007). These voice enhancements add some particularly useful features to the platform which pre-date both Siri and Voice Actions for Android, although restricted to communications and search since the text to speech functionality is only available in text messaging.
Interestingly, competing with the platform owners is a cross-platform app, Vlingo, which provides voice to text functionality to iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Nokia, and the older Windows Mobile devices.
Siri stands apart with the ability to interact with natural speaking and only Voice Actions come close in terms of features. However, Tellme is a strong technology platform and it is anybody’s guess that Microsoft would include Siri-like functionality in the upcoming Windows Phone releases.
Siri, I’m done. Get me some coffee!