Monday, 2 January 2012

Siri: Is it as functional as it is recreational?

It understands what you say. It knows what you mean. It helps you do the things you do every day. It has so ...
Siri: Is it as functional as it is recreational?
It understands what you say. It knows what you mean. It helps you do the things you do every day. It has so much to tell you. Your wish is its command. Yes, we’re talking about iPhone 4S’ voice-based assistant, Siri. Slapped with a Beta tag and armed with the voice of a computerized robotic female (at least when the language is kept to U.S English), Siri wants to wow you with its talent at helping out. But does it really do that? Is Siri really practical for the Indian consumer yet? Read on to find out.
What’s Hot?
Siri being a personal assistant, we expected some entertainment from her as well. After experimenting with her a little, we found out what brings out her sassy side! If you wish her a good morning just to be nice, she'll reply with a good morning as well. However, if the time really is one in the afternoon, she politely wish you good morning and then more politely tell you the time and insinuate that you're an idiot. If you ask Siri what the best tablet out there is, she will promptly respond, "The iPad". And with even more cheek, if you ask her which phone is the best out there, she'll say you're holding it in your hand, staying true to Apple, "This is the best iPhone yet". However, she will be nice to you if you tell her it is your birthday. She'll wish you and genuinely apologize for not getting you a present. Check out the video below for some more Siri sassyness.

An afternoon with Siri

After the initial fun of having a personal voice assistant settled in, we put it through the real acid test - does it do well what it's supposed to do? We used it whilst travelling in the train, whilst walking in a crowded area, whilst driving a car and we were quite impressed. Firstly, if there’s too much environmental sound, Siri will continue to record what is being said, but you can manually stop the recording, which means that environmental noise doesn’t exactly hamper its listening ability. Err, if you’re in some sort of a fish market then the situation might just be a little different. Placing calls, sending text messages, emails and reminders work quite well. Also, we didn’t have any problem in searching the web, or scheduling appointments, which is the core of what she is exactly supposed to do.
What's hot
Sing a song..

What’s needs tweaking?
We had a few multiple contacts with similar names and Siri goofed up when we tried to message one of them. So, for example if you have contacts like Dad, Harsh’s Dad, Ravi’s Dad or something with the word Dad in it, and if you tell Siri, ‘text Dad’, it will go in an infinite loop asking you ‘Which Dad’ would you like to message. A small problem, but a definite one, nonetheless.
Next we tried getting contact information for one of our contacts named ‘Krishna’. So we told Siri, ‘Krishna’ and she came up with a reply saying, ‘I would ask that you address your spiritual questions to someone more qualified to comment. Ideally, a human.’ A big identity faux pas. It does have some difficulty recognizing Indian names and we just couldn’t get Siri to give us information on this one in particular. It isn’t the best of conversationalists, either. For example, we told Siri to wake us up in an hour, and followed it with a ‘Good night’ and Siri replied back ‘It’s still 3:32pm’. So, you see it isn’t quite that smart still. Siri doesn’t support searching places in India and that is another setback.
What's not
What's not

The Indian accent isn’t recognized too well. In all certainty, you will have to clearly specify to Siri what exactly you want her to do and that means you’re not speaking to her in a tone you’d generally speak in. A big downer. But Apple has clearly mentioned that the accuracy rate will vary depending upon your accent and dialect, so we can’t really complain about it.

What’s our verdict?
If you have a clear voice and anything but a thick or a peculiar accent, Siri will impress you quite a lot. For simple things like placing alarms, reminders, calls and text messages, it works quite well. But sometimes you’ll have to repeat, repeat and REPEAT what you want her to do, if you’re speaking in a conversational tone. Which will really make you wonder, if you could just do it the ‘old fashioned’ way - type it out, and finish it yourself! Siri has loads of potential, but it’s still a major WIP for Indian shores. However, we’ll definitely give Apple the benefit of doubt on this one, because in terms of functionality, you’d rather have it than not. 

But, the question is, hasn’t Apple always tried to give its consumers an impeccable product - be it the iPhone or the iPad? Then why the Beta version of Siri? A hasty rushed decision perhaps, because sans Siri, the 4S wasn’t a ‘major’ improvement from it’s predecessor, right? With Siri, there’s still a lot improvement required. And next time, it would be better if they’d just leave the ‘Beta Tags’ to Google.

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