Siri ‘heckled’ Britain’s unsuspecting defense secretary

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Siri chimed in when the UK's Defense Minister was speaking to Parliament.
Siri chimed in when the UK's Defense Minister was speaking to Parliament.
Screenshot: Independent

The U.K’s Gavin Williamson was giving a speech today when he was interrupted. That’s not unusual in the House of Commons, but in this case it was Siri rudely talking over the Defense Secretary.

Williamson was talking about Syria, and something he said was close enough to “Hey Siri” to activate his iPhone’s voice-control system. He and the MPs present got a laugh out of.

The politician was discussing “Syrian democratic forces, supported by coalition air power” when Siri butts in with “I found something on the Web for ‘Syrian democratic forces supported by premonition,’ ” according to the Independent.

If anyone is curious, Williamson has chosen the male voice, with an English accent.

The Defense Secretary told the laughing MPs “I do apologize for that. It is very rare that you are heckled by your own mobile phone.”

“Hey Siri” is quite a challenge

Despite occasional hiccups, “Hey Siri” is something of a technological triumph for Apple. 

The process of picking this phrase out of all the speech happening nearby is done entirely on the iPhone. There’s a chip in the device that does nothing else. 

Commands given to this voice-control system are sent to Apple servers to be parsed and recognized, but that process doesn’t start until after “Hey Siri” phrase has been recognized. Apple’s commitment to privacy means it won’t use remote servers to process everything said near one of its devices.

By contrast, that’s not how Alexa works. Amazon does send everything said near one of  its Echo Dot smartspeakers to remote servers. Searching for the word “Alexa” is done by these computers.