Disappointment that Apple's recently launched iPhone 4S was not an iPhone 5 is giving way to growing interest in one new feature: the intelligent voice assistant Siri. More than a few observers have indicated that it's taken them a few days to get a sense of Siri, and that sense is that the future has arrived.
Rich Jaroslovsky of Bloomberg News, for instance, compared Siri to the scene in a classic "Star Trek" movie in which Spock travels to the past and attempts to communicate with a Mac by speaking into the mouse. Siri, he said, approaches that vision, and "is something different" from what we've seen before in speech-based features on various devices.
'There's No Rain in the Forecast'
Jaroslovsky said he asked Siri, "Will I need an umbrella tonight?" The robotic female voice replied, "There's no rain in the forecast," while a weather report for his location was displayed on the screen.
He added that, if Siri couldn't answer, it directed him to a Web search. Sometimes, Jaroslovsky said, "it's smart enough to be occasionally spooky," such as when he asked Siri to text David, and it chose the correct David from a dozen in his address book.
Similarly, The New York Times' David Pogue called Siri "crazy good, transformative, category-redefining speech recognition." He added that "it's mind-blowing how inexact your utterances can be," noting that Siri even seems, on occasion, to carry on a conversation.
The example he gave was when he asked Siri to schedule an appointment with Patrick for Thursday at 3. Siri noted he already had an all-day appointment on that day, and asked if she should schedule anyway.
Using GPS, Siri can also issue reminders based on location, after being given such verbal commands as "remind me to pick up the dry cleaning when I leave work."
Not Yet 'Star Trek'
However, Pogue said Siri is not "as smart as 'Star Trek's' computers,"and he lamented that she does not interact more with other apps.
Ross Rubin, director of industry analysis for consumer technology at NPD Group, said Siri represents two significant developments for Apple.
He said that one is the return of the technology company to one of its core roles, as "an innovator of user experience."
The other development, Rubin noted, is the integration of Wolfram Alpha, the natural-language knowledge base available on the Web, with Siri. "In part," he said, "this gives Apple a way to circumvent a dependence on search engines" such as Google and Microsoft's Bing.
Rubin predicted that voice-based, intelligent interaction is "absolutely a trend that will continue for smartphones," and that we can expect advancements from various manufacturers to begin leapfrogging each other.
Last year, Apple bought Siri, a start-up based in San Jose, Calif.. No financial details were released at the time.