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What I’d want to change about Siri

Siri 1.jpg

Yesterday, over at iMore, Rene Ritchie wrote about a couple of things he wants to change about Siri.

What does Apple have to do to take the lead … and reclaim your virtual helper heart?

  • Add move domains, including podcast and music, so everything from Overcast to Spotify can tap in.
  • Add “Hey, Siri!” and HomeKit support to the Mac.
  • Add multiple concurrent language support to iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch.
  • Improve sequential inference so it never stops working mid-conversation.
  • Allow for multiple related requests in a single command line (“turn on lights, make them blue at 10%, and turn off kitchen lights”.)
  • Enable direct text input for Siri so you can type any question, same as talking.
  • Create an interface for correction so when Siri gets it wrong, you can help train it to get it right.
  • Also create an error-reporting option like on Maps.
  • Fill in gaps like turning on flashlight
  • Get a dedicated VP of Siri whose only job it is is to make the Siri experience delightfully gap-free.
  • Celebrity voice packs. (What?!)

This got me thinking. Siri has been around for 5 years now. Except for a few months in 2011 when I wanted to try it out, I haven’t really devoted much mental space to Siri. I do use it on my iPhone and Apple Watch sometimes (to set alarms and timers, usually) and took it for a spin when it launched on macOS with Sierra. I have a very specific reason (actually, I have three reasons) for not using it regularly and more than anything I want Siri to improve in these three basic areas before anything else (a couple of them are in line with what Rene mentioned above).

  • Let me text Siri and have actual conversations – Siri doesn’t get me much. Of course, it has improved leaps and bounds in interpreting my accent better over the last five years but still, most of the time, I have to repeat the same command multiple times to make headway. Also, there are a lot of time when an AI assistant would come in handy (in public or office spaces) and I’d prefer to write than text. Like Sherlock, I prefer texting. And while on the topic, Siri needs to understand context. It doesn’t do it very well right now. I want to be able to ask more about a movie I asked it about without having to give it the name of the movie again, for example.
  • Let me train Siri – One thing that Google Assistant does well (and I wish Siri does soon) is that it has a feedback mechanism built in. If I don’t like the answer it gives, I can give it a thumbs-down and tell it exactly what I was looking for. Siri should have that. Also, Siri should get better at deciphering my way of speaking over time. That way, the assistant becomes more personal.
  • Let me use Google’s services with Siri – Google’s services are much better than Apple’s in India. I’m largely referring to Maps and Search (technically, search on Siri is not Apple’s but Bing’s). Today, if I asked a local question like directions to a place, Siri uses Apple Maps and usually, that place is nowhere to be found (this happens in Mumbai, the largest city in India!). The same thing happens with search queries. Google is just better at handling search than Bing and that shows, all the time.

I can’t use (or recommend) Siri seriously (pun alert) till these things change. Hope that happens soon.

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