Hello lovely: A blind geek's first impressions of Siri

Today's blog is sponsored by Siri. Well, not really, but I'm using Siri to write it.

For those of you who are not total geeks like me, Siri is the new voice recognition software that comes pre-installed on the new iPhone 4S. For those of you who use Dragon or Dictate, you will be pretty familiar with how Siri works, as it would appear that Siri is using the same system.

Although I have the Dictate App on both my iPhone and iPad, and the DragonDictate software on my Mac, I have not really started using it for writing. I don't really know why, because the software is excellent and I am always amazed at how well it renders my waffle. Conversely with Siri, I am finding that I want to use it quite a lot, not only because it listens to me and obeys me, but because it is just so darn convenient. It is so well integrated into the iPhone 4S that it's almost impossible not to use it, as it is readily available within the keyboard as an alternative to typing.

In addition, and probably more importantly, Siri is the first mainstream implementation of Artificial Intelligence (AI) I have seen that is anywhere close to what I would hope it to be. I know that it's early days, but I wanted to write whilst Siri and I are still in our honeymoon period.

I clapped hands on my new phone last Friday and I have been exploring and enjoying all of the new features, but I keep on coming back to playing with Siri. It is a vast improvement on the voice recognition that was on my old iPhone 3GS. I remember trying to call my friend David and having it ask me if I wanted to listen to Miles Davis. Siri is light years ahead, and although it is far from perfect, I am hoping that this is the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

A bit of a disclaimer for fanboys and pedants - this is not a full scale review or a critique of the software, as this blog post is also serving as a little experiment: I want to find out if I can write a full blog using Siri without having to edit it by hand, apart from the occasional mistake. Even artificially intelligent beings make mistakes! So, what is it that is making me love this little being so much?

Well, in no particular order these are the things that Siri has been able to do for me completely hands-free, i.e. using voice activation only;

  • Told me what time it was in various locations around the world.
  • Let me know what the weather was at my current location.
  • Allowed me to identify members of my family and associate these relationships with my existing contacts.
  • Sent quite a few text messages to unsuspecting recipients.
  • Sent emails to several other people.
  • Searched for some pretty random things on the web.
  • Told me whether I was busy or free on different dates, and,
  • Set up several meetings and appointments in my calendar.

I was pretty excited when I saw a demo of Siri a little while ago, where folk were booking restaurants and hair appointments willy nilly. Unfortunately Siri does not have a database of businesses in the UK, so this highly publicised and anticipated feature is only available in the US right now. I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

I have heard various different reports about whether or not Siri is accurate enough to be a substitute for typing, and I expect that for visual users this first iteration may not necessarily be up to scratch, but for this visually impaired girl it is an absolute godsend. I expect that for some blind folk and other people in general, there will definitely be a learning curve in terms of how to use voice activation, but as I'm already a DragonDictate user there is no learning curve for me. I know that Apple has not stated publicly that Siri is using the DragonDictate software, but what was a mere suspicion at the beginning of writing this blog has turned into a fairly confirmed opinion.

So to summarise - as an initial view I would say that I'm pretty happy with Siri, but it's a new toy and I'm having fun using it. However, what I have also found in writing this blog is that the same things that irk me about using DragonDictate are starting to irk me when using Siri, so only time will tell.

Apple Siri Logo
Apple Siri Logo

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