Some Thoughts On The Future Of Siri [Opinion]



We’ve seen the first rash of iPhone 4 reviews coming in, and they all agree on one thing: Siri is very impressive.

It works because it does several things all at once. It understands what you’re saying, irrespective of your accent, and without a lot of initial training. And it understands what you mean, because it has the built-in smarts to know that if you say “Tell my wife I’m running late,” you mean “Send a text message to this particular contact with text that says I’m running late.”

But this is just the start for Siri (which Apple’s acknowledged by calling it a beta). The iPhone 4S is the first Apple device that supports it – it certainly won’t be the last. Where might Siri go next?

First, let’s think about new features it might support on the iPhone 4S. In his review, Walt Mossberg points out that it doesn’t (yet) know about flight databases. But it knows that it doesn’t know, and tells him so when he tries to ask about flight data.

So the first, most immediate, improvements we can expect for Siri are a broadening of the databases it knows about and can query. Flights, yes, but other stuff too. Retail databases, perhaps? “Siri, is such-and-such a book already on my Amazon wishlist? If not, add it.”

Then there’s the possibility of opening Siri up to other applications on the device. Wouldn’t it be cool if Siri was able to provide help no matter where you are, or what app you’re using? Inside the App Store, you could say: “Siri, what do people think of this app? How often does it get updated? Has it ever been cheaper?” In Safari, you might say: “Siri, I want to read this page later,” – and Siri could add it to your Instapaper account.

How about in games? Contextual help and advice when you’re stuck on a level of Angry Birds. Or: You’re playing a first-person shooter, and now Siri is your companion in battle – “Siri! Cover me!” OK, I’m kidding, but you see my point: Siri is a technology just like any other. It will be upgraded and expanded, and knowing Apple, move in directions we weren’t expecting.

Finally, expansion beyond the iPhone 4S. Future iPhones and iPads too? I’d say that was a certainty. But what about desktop computers? Would people even want a voice-controlled assistant on their Mac?

I suspect yes, but for different purposes. Usage on the desktop would be less about managing appointments and messages, and more about managing documents, searching and navigating the web, and playing with media. Maybe soon you’ll be able to use Siri on your iThing to control your AppleTV. Sit back on the couch, raise your 4S to your lips and say: “Siri, I want to watch a movie.”

Over to you. Do you want Siri to grow like this? What apps would you like to use it with, and how? Do you want Siri on your Mac?

  • Jackie

    I would want it used with facebook and twitter for sure.

  • Sportello

    Siri/Dragon Dictation would make having a physical keyboard pretty much a novelty on the iPad. 

  • God

    i want siri to work with WhatsApp! to have a cross plattform messenger..

  • Doug

    I think this would be great for journalling applications.

  • Clare Willison

    Would I want Siri on my MacBook Pro? Oh yes please! I’ve been struggling with a painful condition for many years and haven’t found an accurate enough voice recognition system that doesn’t involve tethering yourself to the mac with headphones and mic. I can’t sit comfortably for long and having to watch the screen to keep an eye on the software’s interpretation of what I am saying is, literally, a pain.

    Wish I had the money to get an iPhone 4S but I’ve only had my ‘ordinary’ (!) iphone 4 for a year and had to save up for that! Envy envy (in a nice way).

  • zurick

    You haven’t mentioned the incredible impact that this will have on people with disabilities. Software aimed at the disabilities market have typically been overpriced and not nearly as usable as Siri. Siri holds the promise of integrating a rich group of talent into the workforce that we are currently pissing away.

  • Jasondobrien

    Siri in the hands of apple is something inspiring. It’s so exciting living in a society that embraces technology and being young enough to want to use it.

  • Zwienerdc

    First I think Siri and the idea of it is awesome. I am not getting a 4s and sticking with my 3Gs to wait for the 5 and the new development of siri. I think this tech will be great in the future as well and aid people in being more efficient. One thing that I keep coming back to is, isn’t this how it starts, next thing we know we have Skynet ,and terminators, I’m just saying….

  • infin

    Hope with in few years, we can just talk to the MBP, MBA or Apple TV, no more keyboard, mouse, pad and remote. Star Trek time soon !!

  • Zordilla Gerald Laurence

    Id like to use Siri in the future for Medical/Dental purposes

  • Richard Mears

    Yes, Siri on Mac would be great. Particularly for easy access to Wolfram Alpha’s excellent database. 

    But given that we’re still waiting for [obviously needed] native Mac Apps for both iBooks & YouTube – both bizarre omissions – we may be waiting some time.

  • Steve Collins

    How about Siri translating your native language into a foreign language……. that would be very impressive to dissolved language barriers between cultures….. Cool as

  • Pdsn

    I want to use Siri to write an autobiography! i must praise Apple for being the first to release a software like Siri on a mobile device. The Impact that this will have on people with disabilities can simple be summed up by what Stevie Wonder have said in the past, “because there’s nothing on the iPhone or iPad that you can do that I can’t do. As a matter of fact, i can be talking to you, you can be looking at me, and I can be doing whatever I need to do and you don’t even know what I’m doing!”and for the simple fact that Siri learns how you speak and adapt to you will be a game changer in the industry. i hope Apple continue to build on this software quickly, Siri will probably change computer and mobile industry the same way apple did with the iPhone.  @thedigitalball:disqus   

  • Wayne_Luke

    I can see iBooks as a native OSX app but why do you need a dedicated app for YouTube?

  • Doug Bursnall

    First thing is a customizable name, millions of people asking Siri a question is not a personal experience, after its got into the general lexicon it would be great to name your phone, “Hal, open the car door…”.
    Potential for other uses are as many as there are interactions in the world and when combined with voice recognition and authentication, “Hal pay starbucks $4.75 for my coffee”, “Whats my next appointment”, “Get my current bank balance”, “Buy 1000 Apple stocks”, “Find the nearest parking space”…..

  • Wayne_Luke

    Skynet already exists… It is the name of the UK’s network of intelligence satellites. Cyberdine is already building robots in Japan as well. At least with Siri, the T-900 will sound pleasant as it eradicates humanity.

  • The Builder

    Most definitely, I want it on my Mac! It would be absolutely off the chain if we were able to do something as simple as open up an application via voice, and then, say in Word or Pages, be able to speak what I would want to place on the page (like the Jetsons!), tell it to go back or delete text, or other things. To be able to switch between applications by simply saying, “Switch to (app name here),” or play whatever track I want in iTunes by simply speaking the name of the song, and SO much more! That would DEFINITELY make people’s lives much easier (especially for people who haven’t even used a computer in their lives….

  • ahmad

    um im studying to be a dentist , but i dont see your point 
    what do u mean ??

  • ahmad

    facebook ,, check in here

    tv forecast : what tv shows are playing tonight ?
    when is the next episode of how i met your mother

    im+ : is smith online ? 
    who is online ??

  • Theuninvitedguest

    I have to say, at first I wasn’t very excited about Siri. I just feel weird talking to my phone (I know, I know). But after reading about it, specifically adding reminders or events so easily, and the feature that allows you to talk into your phone as if you were talking to a person, it has me intrigued. I’m just sad the location-aware features are only available for home and work. I want to tell Siri to remind me to pick something up the next time I am near Target.

  • jake0112

    Can siri work without holding the home button? It would be amazing and convenient if its always listing for the voice command. 

  • smitty97

    Siri needs to hook up with Watson from Jeopardy!

  • Guest

    As a physician, I would love to be able to access some of my medical apps to, for example, confirm the dose of a medication, or to provide a differential of an abnormal lab value. Of course, with the onset of voice recognition taking place in some hospitals, the possibilities of ordering blood tests, X-rays, and asking SIRI for results of these tests on certain patients would be phenomenal.

  • Demonstr8r

    There is a configuration option to have it automatically listen when you raise the phone to speak without pushing the button. Having it listen 24/7 would needlessly drain the battery.

  • Demonstr8r

    Checking flights, search for flights, booking flights, trains, rental cars, hotels, etc.

    Integration with “Find My Phone” and “Find My Friends”. Where is my iPad? Where is my son? What time will my wife arrive? The later is perhaps less useful since some major assumptions are necessary.

    Another related idea is to extend the “Find My Friends”, reminders and geo-fences. What if parents could setup a geo-fence alert for their young teenagers who are starting to get some level of roaming freedom, but parents are not entirely comfortable with this big step.

    Anything to improve home entertainment, DVR, record an episode or series, dim the lights, recommend a good movie, etc.

    Help with gift ideas. Recommend a gift for my wife’s birthday. Knowing gender, age, country, region and season should help narrow down the ideas if tied in with more data sources, not to mention this is ripe for advertising as long as it was subtle.

    Another improvement would be to repond with some of the answers that it simply lists from Wolfram Alpha, such as “How many ounces in a liter of beer?” Don’t get me wrong, the fact that it finds more meaningful search results faster than I can type into Google sis already awesome, but the article asks how we would like to impprove it further.

  • Demonstr8r

    Perhaps you don’t yet realize that you do not have to start every command with Siri. I know most of the written reviews provide examples that start out with “Siri do this” or “Siri do that”, but that is not required.

  • Demonstr8r

    Dictation is already in IOS 5.

  • Chris

    just tell siri to launch an app! for those moments when you’re too lazy to lift your finger^^

  • Chris


  • Chris

    better not, or else it will be boring to watch star trek

  • Tim_at_IMM

    Right. And the cellphone itself is for those who are too lazy to find a payphone!

  • Tim_at_IMM

    Gad to see some commentators “get” the significance of the iPhone 4S. Forget the camera, increased processing power and other goodies. It’s all about Siri. Why? Because it has the potential of mainstreaming true intelligence on our devices. This could be as earth-shaking an advancement as Apple’s introduction of the mouse back in the 1980s. Apple is all about making devices that adapt to the user rather than the other way around.

    Also forget Android’s voice command. This is nothing like that. This doesn’t require the memorizing of pre-formulated commands like on other devices. Even if Siri isn’t all that good, it’s only going to get better as time passes. Expect in the near future people to ask not how many apps you have on your phone but how truly smart it is.

  • MiGrant

    Siri, make coffee!

  • shockme

    It would be nice if SIRI on Mac finally delivered on the promise of AI and speech recog promised by the MAc back in 1996.

  • Richard Mears

    Say you go buy a new Macbook. Everything should “just work,” right? 

    So you load up YouTube – One of the world’s most popular websites. And it doesn’t work. Why? Because Apple knows you’re better off without it. But you want to use YouTube. And as an average user, maybe you don’t know there’s an HTML5 beta that you can opt into. So, you follow the prompt and install Flash on your machine JUST so you can watch YouTube. 

    Now, flash adverts are popping up all over the Internet, your battery life’s dramatically reduced, and your fan’s going mad, and you’re wondering what happened. 

    Apple doesn’t want this. That’s why they need a native app – So people aren’t forced to download Flash – and more to the point so they don’t then start complaining about how their Mac has poor battery life and overheats.

  • Wayne_Luke

    hmmmm. K.

  • Dwatson

    Maybe Siri is Watson in Drag.

  • Jon Mattingly

    That’s not true, you can set custom location labels for a lot of things, and I know you can set reminders for whenever you leave a particular location, I don’t know where the “only work for home and work” came from, but the guy that wrote that was wrong.

    You can go into your contacts app, and set labels for anything, its under the default labels when you add an address, so be sure to scroll down. Then you can put any label in there that you’d like, for example “Target,” and add an address for it. Then just tell siri your reminder, and say “remind me when I leave my Target” Remember to say “my” otherwise it won’t work (at least from what I can tell). It’s not ideal, but its pretty effective, odds are you have a regular Target.

  • Lucas Thevenard Gomes

    Speech recognition and AI, working so well together, is pretty powerful, off course. But if the question is about the future of this technology I would say it is far more impressive then most people suspect. Take image recognition, for example, and add it to the mix. In the future, I think I’ll be asking siri, in my desktop, “who’s the blond girl in this picture”, and it will promptly remind me…

  • Crazyjoeda

    One day Siri could just replace the doctor! 

    “I have a sore throat.” 

    Siri: “Let me see.”  

    Point camera down your throat.  

    Siri: “You have a throat infection, I’ve prescribed anti-bio-tics.  Where would you like to pick up your prescription?”

    “Local pharmacy”  

    Siri: “Your prescription will be ready for pick up a Local Pharmacy in 3min.  Do you need directions?”       

  • Jean

    I can imagine that Siri could also be used on Apple TV, to schedule movies from where ever you are: “Siri, Get Spiderman for me to watch tonight when I get home”
    In such a case, Siri will get Apple TV to download the movie, and schedule a reminder for when you get home.
    I believe we are about to see some ground breaking changes to they way we use computers and mobile devices.

  • Eldertervortt

    “play pandora” would be cool, and other similar apps. -Siri just wrote that for me ;)

  • Benjamin

    I can’t wait for Siri to say things like
    “I noticed you were low on milk I added it to your shopping list.”
    “you know with your complextion you should wear different colour sweater.”
    I’m ready for it to get creepy lol

  • Arun Jacob

    will siri be available in macbook pro

  • adjeff8

    That was the first thing I said when I saw the Keynote address. I work in various countries in Europe and that ability would change my life

  • adjeff8

    CONTACTS!!! Why in the world can’t Siri create a contact?

  • ghost919

    it is clear to all that Siri is still in its nascent stage. in the next update, siri should respond to commands such as “open calculator” or “close app store”. siri also needs to work more on music playback (it barely understands the track names I ask it to play), translation (you ask siri to translate stuff for you), and most of all, Siri needs to learn to work offline!! 

  • Simon Pitt

    As much as I like Siri on my iPhone 4S and look forward to the softwares future developments. What i’m really looking forward to, is the ability to surf the net using my mind/thoughts. Without speaking or touching anything would be fantastic. Speech is great when used occasionally(throughout the day), but I for one, would find it bothersome if I were relying on it for the majority of my computers navigation.