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Thread: [Editorial] Could Apple's 'Siri' be More Significant than We Realize?

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    [Editorial] Could Apple's 'Siri' be More Significant than We Realize?


    After thinking deeper about Apple's new Voice Search Assistant, "Siri", I wanted to reflect a bit about this new "product" from Apple, and pose a question to the community. First, I'll actually throw the question out there, and then share some thoughts and industry reports that just might change your initial answer to the question. Here's the question: "Could Apple's Voice Search Assitsant, "Siri," that recently came with the iPhone 4S, be more significant than we realize, and pose a threat to Android?"

    When I first heard about Siri, my initial reaction was, that's pretty cool, but... that's just a more refined version of apps that we already had on the Android. In fact, I even found and shared an interesting story in the news section about a group of guys that were able to create their own weak and slightly broken clone of Siri in about eight hours. Overall, it seemed like, case-closed, time to move on to more interesting Android related stuff, right?

    But something kept nagging at the back of my mind. Taking a technological product and making it better, then, even more importantly, marketing it better, has always been Apple's strength. In reality, almost none of Apple's products was an original idea. Their ability to take an existing idea and improve it, then market it in an emotionally satisfying way to consumers is what has made them the powerhouse profit machine that they currently are. Siri, could very well be their next big thing... their next killer app.

    From many of the reports I have read, most iPhone 4S using folks that show off Siri, don't really use it to a great degree other than to demo it to others, so it is possible that it could fade away like many "neato whizz-bang" features throughout the history of technology. However, as Siri is improved and people become more emotionally attached to it, that could change, and create an entirely new way to do searches. I mean, if you extrapolate out the potential, it's not too hard to imagine a future where we no longer need to type any searches and instead simply ask our "Jarvis-like" mobile personal super-computer any bit of info we want. Siri, may not have started the idea, but it could be what pushes it into the mainstream.

    In fact, apparently, I was not the only one thinking about Siri in these terms. A new report from CNet shares that Google Chairman, Eric Schmidt, testified before a senate subcommittee that is investigating Google's dominance in Web search recently. He seems to be drawing the same conclusions that I did and had this to say, "Apple's Siri is a significant development--a voice-activated means of accessing answers through iPhones that demonstrates the innovations in search. Google has many strong competitors and we sometimes fail to anticipate the competitive threat posed by new methods of accessing information."

    He further added that some publications have been calling Siri the "entry point" for Apple to get into the search business and become the "Google Killer." Mr. Schmidt further admitted that he was wrong about past statements when he suggested that Apple and Facebook are not strong competitors in the search business. He also said, "The importance of social networking to consumers' online experience has changed remarkably--even over the past year. Consumers are looking for answers when they conduct searches online, and social search has become a serious competitor in helping people find those answers online." Now, obviously some of what he was saying was designed to help bolster Google's defense during the Senate hearings, but that doesn't mean that it isn't valid. It is obviously on his mind so there must be some concern there.

    Still, when you break it all down, what we may be seeing is a new evolution in the way we interface with our technology. Although voice recognition is nothing really very new, all the big companies from Microsoft, to Google, to Apple have been working hard to perfect the idea.

    In the long run, my answer to my own question is: "It may be more significant that we realized, but it is not necessarily more of a threat to Android." Obviously, Siri could be a new avenue for Apple to compete in the technological marketplace, and not just in mobile devices, but in search engine technology as well. However, we don't really think that Google is going to sit on their hands and do nothing about it, do we? In fact, one could argue that Android is simply another step in the evolution of technology. Ultimately, competition in the marketplace causes technology to evolve faster, and as long as companies stay hungry for our business, then technology will continue to evolve and consumers will win.

    Perhaps it is just the eternal optimist in me, but I think that Siri is actually a good thing for consumers and even Google. In the long run it might light a fire under them to make Android, and their other products, even better. Then, pretty soon, we might all be having conversations with our Androids instead of having to type into them.

    How would you answer this question?

    Source: Android.net
    Source for Eric Schmidt's Statements: CNet
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    It will be an intriguing capability if/when they get all the bugs out of it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dgstorm View Post

    Perhaps it is just the eternal optimist in me, but I think that Siri is actually a good thing for consumers and even Google. In the long run it might light a fire under them to make Android, and their other products, even better. Then, pretty soon, we might all be having conversations with our Androids instead of having to type into them.
    I agree with this and it's not that far away.

    This technology will be a game changer soon.
    Last edited by MikeM; 11-08-2011 at 04:35 PM.

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    With Google Voice many of the capabilities of Siri have been implemented for years. I have been talking to my Android phone for years. I have also talked to my Transformer on many occasions.

    A little background: I am a Senior Software Engineer with extensive background in Speech.

    There are two things that differentiate the Siri implementation from Google's Voice app.

    1) Siri uses something called "Natural Language" This means that (once initiated just like Android) you may speak to your device with a natural language request instead of a Command Request (what most Speech Reco devices use). This allows you to make requests that are more natural in nature than a GV request. For instance: In GV you would use the Command "Listen to" and then speak an artist/song/genre. If the "listen to" is not spoken the device is unable to process the rest of the request. In Siri you could just simply say "Play me some Matchbox Twenty" and the request MAY or MAY NOT be met. There are not Speech Commands/Tokens in the beginning of speech. Siri with Natural Language Processing will simply employ part-of-speech processing or word spotting to figure out what you are trying to do. It would pick up "play" and "Matchbox Twenty" and likely dump the rest of the words as they do not modify the request. These words would then be checked against a synonym list or directly against an internal command list as "play, listen to, and or start for instance could all be used in a similar fashion. If it hits on one of the commands in the list it will try to evaluate the rest of the words in appropriate context (is this an artist/song/genre?). If the rest of the recognized words are "in context" it will essentially build the same thing as GV used in its context (listen to Matchbox Twenty"). If the context were something different like a game listed on your phone (likely indexed when installed) then the play function is used in a different context and it may launch the game you requested to play.

    2) The 4S uses Text to Speech to give intelligent responses to your queries. The GV application simply gives you on-screen feedback.

    As it turns out both use very similar technologies. They both require a network connection to complete voice reco. This required because they bundle the captured speech and send it off to a remote host for processing. The results are then fed back to the phone (likely via an XML document) that state the result, the results confidence level and a few other items. If Google were to implement the same off host engine as Apple they would still be behind at this point. Apples implementation also uses the Text-to-Speech feature to give verbal response. This would likely be a simple change for Google as well since the Android devices also support Text-To-Speech. Apple has limited the applications that can use the Siri implementation so that they can get good recognition results back. By limiting the applications they can have more accurate word spotting and context sensitive searches due to a limited set of commands/synonyms that would be required. As you see Apple expanding the Siri App to 3rd parties (more commands to search through) the response times from the servers will become quite lenghty (unless the 3rd parties employ their own servers targeted for their app).

    Hope this helps.
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    I think Siri could be a game-changer. I remember when the announcement about Siri was made. There was an article in one of the Android blogs - I can't remember which one - but I left a comment on the article in early October that I thought this was significant. I also believe that Google is once again playing catch-up although they have dominated the voice implementation field for years. I never gave voice activation much thought, really, until Siri was announced. Before Siri, I would use voice for search and occasionally for navigation. I downloaded Vlingo, but never really used it much and I ended up uninstalling it.

    There is, too often, a big difference between the Google world and the Apple world. Too often, when Google innovates, it is utilitarian. When Apple innovates, they add whimsy, some sort of additional feature that takes something utilitarian and makes it "fun." And I am not sure that. even with Eric Schmidt's remarks, that Google "gets it." In an interview at the ICS Hong Kong announcement, Andy Rubin seemed to dismiss Siri and said that people should not use their phones for one-way interaction. There should be a person on the other side of the phone conversation - or something to that effect.

    I could not believe Andy Rubin was saying this. I think Andy Rubin is as wrong about this as he could possibly be. And this is unfortunate as Google risks missing the boat - once again. If this is his view, I have a hard time seeing how Google will make strides beyond what Siri has accomplished. I can see 3rd party developers creating apps that try to make these kinds of strides, but without Google, the level of necessary integration to achieve a seamless voice experience will always be lacking in the Android system.

    I am somewhat heartened by what the devs for Jeannie and EVAN apps have done recently. They have really stepped up their game with updates to their apps. They need work, but they are really trying to improve their apps. One thing is for sure - I love Android and I have always thought Google's voice search was an interesting addition to Android, but it was Siri that got me interested in what voice could do. I would love to see Google not only match, but exceed what Apple has been able to accomplish with Siri. It can be done.
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    Joietrans,

    Like I said above the implementations are "not that far apart". A simple remote server change (with some changes to the webservice), an update to the OS to allow GV everywhere (it is nearly everywhere now anyways) and linking the response to the Text-to-Speech and they will have parody.

    I know this sounds like a lot of work but I would wager it would be capable of deployment in a 6 month development cycle.

    Both teams are likely using Nuance: Nuance Exec on iPhone 4S, Siri, and the Future of Speech | TechPinions
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    I see the potential, but I`m skeptic.

    It`s naturally amazing to imagine such a Science Fiction scene to become reality, but honestly I think that we`ll still put ourselves in a "to machine communication mode", making that interaction not 100% natural. And the biggest differentiation in current interaction with our beloved high tech toys is the regularity of the experience. If you try to do something in a way that is easier, but not always works, you`ll definitely choose the safer 100% guaranteed way that always work.

    I do believe that, just as many other Apple features, it`s great for showing off, but after a couple of months it value vanishes and you go back to your usual way of doing things.

    May opinion may not be totally imparcial, as I`m a big Android fan, and I`m coming close to be an Apple hater. I appreciate what Apple has to offer, but I hate so much the limitations they impose (especially the absense of SD cards, forcing iTunes and no real access to your contents) that I may be putting some extra effort to find deffects in what they are showing as their biggest breakthrough.

    Having said that, even if I think we are far from a really natural way to communicate orally with machines, no doubt the large scale implementation of a natural language system that can be seen as a reasonably mature tool is already a big step in that direction. I just think that too many steps are still missing.

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    I've read articles that hypthesize that Siri could be a threat to Google itself, directly going after Google's ad revenue.

    The idea is that Google depends on organic search results to generate legitimacy as the dominant search engine. If their organic results don't get the stuff people want, they'll stop using it. They depend on AdWords and other PPC type advertising for revenue. PPC necessitates a relationship between Google and advertisers.

    At the end of the day, all most searchers are looking for (unless doing research) is a single "correct" response.

    With Siri, there is *no* page of links......you ask Siri to find something for you, and Siri finds it. *How* it finds it doesn't matter as much.....Apple could have it tap Google's results, Bing's, or anyone else's. The point is that the customer is no longer getting a page of links. They're getting a single answer.

    This puts Apple in the position of being able to negotiate directly with advertisers. They can make deals so that *all* Siri users who are in, say, Toronto who want to order a Pizza will be given the number to Pizza Pizza, instead of Domino's or any number of other Pizza joints. Apple could command big bucks for that type of search favoratism.

    The theory is that Apple could have all kinds of deals organized like this, all over the world, with dominant providers in particular areas.

    Advertisers would no longer have to pay Google for impressions when they could instead pay Apple to be directly hooked up to purchasers.

    Keep in mind....this isn't my theory...I'm just paraphasing what I've read elsewhere.

    Though there are a lot of iPhones, I think there are far more people who search *without* an iPhone than with. But if Apple started making that technology available in other devices, like in their theoretical internet TVs that people are claiming might kill cable, in iPad 2's, 3's, 4's, etc. etc. and in Macbooks etc. etc. that might start to change the playing field.

    I think it likely that Apple's dominance in tablets had something to do with Adobe dropping Flash for mobile. Who knows what other changes having tens of millions of people on a single platform might cause? I know there are more Android phones......but the Android tablets have got alot of catching up to do. I'm sure we'll find out that Apple has patented the idea of speech recognition technology, or natural voice speech recognition technology (even though they didn't invent it), and everyone else is going to get sued if they try and do any kind of device that talks back to the user.

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    Siri heavily depended on internet

    Siri as the front-end really needs the internet as back-end and is using the censors heavily.

    The only way Siri could pose a "threat" to Google is when Google will lose advertisement incomes from Siri-advertisement integrations.

    There is a major shift going on in the world, especially the financial world. Here in Holland the contracts have been increased greatly in cost, making it more and more difficult to use mobile devices with 3G (or in the future 4G).

    So I would expect people are not warming up to buy an overprized piece of plastic/electronic which needs a highly costly contract to use.
    Next, people do not want to use voice control that many times. I for one very much dislikes to talk extra to a toy so I can preserve my energy for many other important activities.

    I wonder how fail proof such a thing as Siri/Iris is with so many different languages out their. Besides this there are many moments where people use 2 different languages if those people work at global corporations.
    I tried Iris for a short moment but it failed so much time its 80% useless.

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    I don't suppose any of you have the Vlingo Virtual Assistant installed, so far it was intended for Android phones. I do have it on my TF and it is Siri in disguise. A colleague installed it on his Android phone, at my suggestion, and has it jumping through hoops. He says it gets faster and faster every time he uses it. I can't wait for an official tablet version.

    Check it out on the Market if you get the time.

 

 
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