I’m not someone who has ever been tempted to use any sort of voice command on my phone; I generally feel like a raging idiot verbally addressing an inanimate hunk of glass, metal and plastic when there is no response from another human on the other end. (Unless, of course, I’m cursing at said inanimate object, which is totally reasonable, sane-person behavior.) Given the popularity of Siri, it seemed like maybe I was alone in this peculiarity. But the more I asked around, the more it seems like people got really excited about Siri for about three days and then gave up in frustration.
Then there’s the one friend who swore off Siri forever, after it repeatedly tried to call her long-absent ex-boyfriend any time she tried to do anything, like some demented stalker:
Friend: “Call Mom.”
Siri: “Calling TJ.”
Friend: “WHAT? STOP!!?”
Friend: “Remind me to buy milk today.”
Siri: “Calling TJ”
Friend: “OH NO!! Nonono!!”
Now that Google is coming up with its own answer to the Siri feature, various blogs and technology sites are conducting tests comparing the two. Here’s App Judgement’s version of the test (skip to 3:15 for the actual start of the test):
After watching this video, I was curious if your bog-standard voice recognition had improved to where it might be useful for the average person. So I spent the evening chatting with my inanimate hunk of semi-antiquated, Android-powered telephonic goodness. The things it was and wasn’t able to understand were absolutely baffling.
“Define da kine” totally worked and took me to appropriate search results. Singing the first line of “Hello” by Lionel Ritchie took me to the YouTube video of the song. Anything I said while trying to stifle laughter was fine. But then, trying to create a Facebook status update asking people what phrases they’ve asked Siri that tripped her up became “can does if you was here you tell me some reasons that you can use to trick her up?” Wow, not remotely close. When I broke up that question into smaller chunks, it was able to get that I was asking about Siri, but it never got close enough to make a successful search.
I know that Siri is not a search engine, that its utility lies more in automating phone actions like creating reminders or sending texts. That could arguably be faster than poking and typing these things the “old-fashioned” way. But, ya know what? I still say No. Nine times out of ten when I’m doing those things, I’m not alone in my home, safely away from other humans. I’m in public where conversing with a gadget in exaggeratedly slow and articulate tones makes me look like a tool.
Voice recognition may be light years improved from its early days, but I can’t foresee a time where it’ll be convenient to converse with our gadgets like we’re addressing a person. Most of us are decreasing our use of phones as a telephonic device in favor of texting or IMing. We can have conversations with real humans in total silence, under the radar of everyone around us. In a world that is increasingly noisy and crowded, it’s starting to seem like the most sensible and polite way to go.
What are your thoughts on Siri? Is it a useful feature or a pointless gimmick? Have you tried Google’s version? And if so, did you find it more useful or accurate?