Siri features in iOS 6 demoed by Scott Forstall at WWDC 2012. Photo: AFP
Apple's voice-activated virtual assistant Siri could be integrated into the next version of Apple's computer operating system, OSX 10.9, due for release later this year.
Though Apple, as usual, has refused to confirm or deny the rumor, a recent job posting by the company in search of a User Interface Engineer to expand the use of Siri across the Apple product range suggests the addition of Siri to Macs as well as iPhones and iPads is simply a matter of time. The addition of Siri would bring voice dictation and voice-activated search to the desktop and notebook user experience, and while such additions would make Apple fans very excited, what does it mean to the rest of us?
The news is important as it shows that the PC user experience needs to change if ‘traditional' computers -- read, desktops and notebooks -- are to remain relevant in what Steve Jobs famously called "The post-PC age." Smartphones and tablets are changing the way that consumers interact with technology: swipes, pinches and taps are replacing typing, clicking, pointing and scrolling but by and large, similar inputs are being ignored by the PC-making community.
The latest version of Microsoft's operating system, Windows 8, may be optimized for touch interface but it offers this interaction via two very distinct menus, one of which becomes redundant unless the user has a touch screen.
Consumers still need the processing power and applications that computers provide but, thanks to tablets in particular, not in the way that computers currently present these features.
If proof of the need for innovation were required, look no further than the buzz that Leap Motion has caused with its tiny little Controller box that plugs into a USB slot and enables users to interact with their computers via gestures, "Minority Report"-style. The controller can track movements to 1/100th millimeter-smaller than the tip of a pin-with no visible lag time, has a 150-degree field of view, and tracks individual hands and all 10 fingers at 290 frames per second.
So taken was Asus with the technology that it is bundling the controller with its top-of-the-range notebook computers and all-in-one desktop PCs starting this year. Of the partnership, Albert Wu, Desktop Division Senior Director at ASUSTek, said: "Leap Motion has developed an exciting technology that will truly enhance the experience our customers have with their ASUS devices, opening a world of opportunity for personal use and business, from entertainment to architecture to education."
Likewise, PrimeSense, the company behind Microsoft's Xbox Kinect system, is currently developing the voice, figure and movement recognition sensors that are small enough to integrate into smartphones and tablets. There's no doubt that Kinect has brought a new dimension and new level of interactivity to gaming, and PrimeSense's founders believe those same levels of interactivity should be commonplace in all future technology systems. As the company explains on its blog: "We see that 3D sensing can add functionality and an improved user experience to almost all of today's devices, and we want to make the system capable of that."