Siri will one day discuss your health problems with you

By

Siri may soon be able to identify your voice and give personalized responses.
Less "What are you doing" and more "How are you doing?"
Photo: Apple/Cult of Mac

The ability to have back-and-forth conversations about users’ health problems is one of several new abilities planned for Siri in “fall 2021,” a new report claims.

Based on leaked documents, The Guardian says that Apple is planning a host of new features for its AI assistant. These will include built-in machine translation and, intriguingly, support for a new, unspecified piece of Siri hardware.

The health conversation part sounds particularly interesting. A recent report, published in the journal npj Digital Medicine, pitted top AI assistants against each other in terms of which one best answers queries about medications.

The researchers found that Google Assistant was able to understood 92% of brand name medicines, and 84% of generics. Siri understood 58% of brand names and 51% of generics. Alexa came in last place with 55% of brand names and 46% of generics. Comprehension fell for Siri and Alexa when people with different accents asked the questions.

Expecting Siri to be a substitute for your doctor is a mistake. But Apple has shown a big interest in mobile health, as notably seen through its its latest generation of Apple Watch. CEO Tim Cook also talked about Apple’s contribution to health as a lasting legacy for the company.

More Siri changes coming in iOS 13

In addition to Siri health capabilities, the report also describes several changes coming to the AI assistant in iOS 13. This includes Siri support for Find My Friends, the App Store, and song identification on the Apple Watch.

The Guardian writes that Apple is “aiming to enable ‘play this on that’ requests, so that users could, for instance, ask the service to ‘Play Taylor Swift on my HomePod’; and the ability to speak message notifications out loud on AirPods.”

Siri and feminism

The report goes on to note how Apple changed Siri’s language to reflect a (slightly) more feminist, post-#MeToo approach. While Siri doesn’t actually say the word “feminism,” it avoids generic responses to questions like “Are you a feminist” like it once did. Instead, Siri now says things like: “I believe that all voices are created equal and worth equal respect” or “It seems to me that all humans should be treated equally.”

Siri also responds more forcefully when people use certain derogatory terms. For instance, calling Siri a “slut” now receives a sterner response than before. Where Siri once said, “I’d blush if I could,” the AI assistant now answers with: “I won’t respond to that.”