Well, we’ve the buzzword of the week – Siri. One app to do a lot, an ultimate assistant, a perfect search companion! In-fact the buzz of Siri is far more than entire iPhone 4S as a whole, and this is quite expected as well – iPhone 4S doesn’t have much to offer apart from Siri (new notification system and somewhat performance improvement is there with 8 MP camera but that’s not much for an iPhone 4 user to upgrade).

So, what exactly is Siri? Siri is voice-controlled personal assistant that can manage your work with your voice input. Just say it to Siri and get it done. You don’t even have to look at your mobile screen and the results are really promising. Just see these awesome videos to figure out what Siri can do for you –

(Official video – obviously, comments are disabled for this video)

(Really funny to watch!)

Clearly Siri can do what no other voice assistant (e.g. vLingo) has achieved – talking to you and practically opening every mobile app (calendar, alarm, etc.) thanks to it’s iOS integration. And though Apple doesn’t allow (and doesn’t like as well, I know), you can possibly run Siri on iPhone 4 as well.

So how does Siri (or any other voice assistant) work? Well, I’m giving you some generic idea (Siri being in stronghold of Apple, you cannot expect a single line of code out of it now). Any voice assistant requires two part – Speech Recognition and Speech Synthesis. Speech Recognition is the process to convert a spoken word into text. Speech Synthesis on the other hand is the electronic production of speech.

Whenever, you say a word to the voice application, it try to convert the said words into text using speech recognition algorithms, then applies heuristic techniques to breakup and extract the meaning from the given text, which essentially is the search for the keywords, and finally perform a task based on it. For example, when you say “Remind me to pick up my dress when I leave work“, Siri creates reminder (it finds “remind” as a keyword for reminder), “pick up my dress” as the subject (as it’s longest line which doesn’t have any keywords in between) and finally set time as leaving:work (based on keyword “leave” and “work” your pre-stored location).

Speech synthesis part is simple. Once speech recognition is done and task is performed, the final text is converted into human voice (woman’s in case of Siri) and outputted through speaker. So what seems magical is simply an step by step algorithm to find keywords and perform action based on those.

So tempting and really wanna put your hands on Siri, don’t you? Well, read on!

Siri is definitely an amazing piece of software but it isn’t perfect, in-fact it’s far from it. Speech recognition algorithms are quite heavy for mobiles, so generally kept on server and read in every request. Because of this, Siri requires constant internet connection and it’ll not work in offline mode at all. In online mode as well, it sometimes show the message “I’m Not Able To Connect Right Now” and doesn’t give you the result, but this can be fixed.

Siri, being deeply integrated in iOS, cannot work on other mobile platform – something vLingo users can enjoy. Also, it has some unusual limitations, as noted by Engadget

But Siri has some unusual limitations. It can’t open iPhone apps such as Safari or key websites such as Wikipedia by name (although it can initiate a Web search). It can dictate SMS or iMessage messages but not tweets despite iOS 5’s Twitter integration. Siri can call up a preview of recent e-mails, but it is not (yet) Apple’s answer to a way to have texts and emails read passively while driving, a task handled adeptly by apps such as DriveSafe.ly — particularly on the BlackBerry platform.

But the most important issue comes when iPhone goes international (yeah, it’ll be launched in India very soon as well). Siri’s voice recognition is limited to English (United States, United Kingdom, Australia), French (France), German (Germany) – the country in brackets represents the accent it accepts. Clearly, either you’ve to be very fluent in these accents or chances are that Siri completely ignores you, just like Apple while listening to your complaints! Some more languages in pipeline for 2012 release but don’t expect any Indian language till 2015.

The deadly blow comes when you actually try to use Siri outside US. Let’s imagine, you somehow manage the accent, but try saying “Where Am I” (asking for your current location, that’s it) and Siri will start scratching her (virtual) head. All location, time, weather, stock, and many other commands are simply non functional outside US right now. Again fix is promised next year, but will India be included? I guess not.

Final Words

  1. Are you the owner of iPhone 4 living outside US? If yes, the avoid the temptation of Siri for at-least one more year and stick to your current device. Maybe next year, Siri will actually be workable.
  2. For all others, it’s your call. Apart from Siri, iPhone 4S still has a lot – Hype, highest and fastest selling mobile, has great apps and if you don’t tinker much with your phone (that means if you’re not a power user or techno-buff in plain words), you may actually enjoy the phone as well.

For me? Well, I’m happy seeing Siri in action over YouTube only!