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Siri Gives Apple Two Year Advantage Over Android 800

Posted by samzenpus
from the head-of-the-class dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Gary Morgenthaler, a recognized expert in artificial intelligence and a Siri board member, says that Apple now has at least a two-year advantage over Google in the war for best smartphone platform. 'What Siri has done is changed people's expectations about what's possible,' says Morgenthaler. 'Apple has crossed a threshold; people now expect that you should be able to expect to speak ordinary English — and be understood. Siri has cracked the code.' The threshold, from mere speech recognition to natural language input and understanding, is one that Google cannot cross by replicating the technology or making an acquisition adds Morgenthaler. 'There's no company out there they can go buy.' Morgenthaler's comments echo the recent article in Forbes Magazine, 'Why Siri Is a Google Killer' that says that Apple's biggest advantage over any other voice application out there today is the massive data Siri will collect in the next 2 years — all being stored in Apple's massive North Carolina data center — that will allow Siri to get better and better. 'Siri is a new interface for customers wanting to get information,' writes Eric Jackson. 'At the moment, most of us still rely on Google for getting at the info we want. But Siri has a foot in the door and it's trusting that it will win your confidence over time to do basic info gathering.'"
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Siri Gives Apple Two Year Advantage Over Android

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  • by EponymousCustard (1442693) on Thursday November 03, 2011 @08:12AM (#37932458)
    Stopped reading after that
  • Why? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Threni (635302) on Thursday November 03, 2011 @08:14AM (#37932472)

    People aren't going to use Siri very much, because talking to your phone makes you look stupid. It's been on Android for years anyway, and no-one used it there. That Apple claim it's more useful now means nothing. It's like forward facing cameras - outside of a tiny niche no-one cares.

  • by AdrianKemp (1988748) on Thursday November 03, 2011 @08:15AM (#37932480)

    Really?

    Really!?

    You feel that a voice interface makes people useless and dependant? Do you intentionally only communicate between other people using morse code via hand signals? (that's just the least user friendly and effective method I could think of)

    Sometimes I weep for the stupidity of humanity... I can't even laugh at you because it's just not funny... it's fucking scary

  • by Spinland (1865248) on Thursday November 03, 2011 @08:16AM (#37932490)

    "Their entire product line is aimed at people who can barely power up their computers"

    Opinions and assholes, et al. This is simply overstated and wrong. Take it from a ton of users who are a wee more capable than you seem to give credit for. There are some who simply want their tech to Just Work without a lot of configuring and fiddling and other time-wasting nonsense.

  • Re:So true (Score:3, Insightful)

    by papasui (567265) on Thursday November 03, 2011 @08:18AM (#37932524) Homepage
    The only true finite resource in the world is time. Just because you can afford to pay 2 million programmers doesn't mean that a project that would normally take 5 years can be done in like a week. While voice narration/navigation has been available for years I'd describe the results as lukewarm. SIRI appears to be a leap forward in terms of both recognition and the tasks it can actually perform. It is really pretty cool.
  • by alen (225700) on Thursday November 03, 2011 @08:20AM (#37932542)

    Apple already sends a lot of the SiRi search outside of google. If a lot of smaller data companies sign up to be apple partners then google will lose a lot of search traffic. or at least a lot of the good and profitable search traffic

  • Re:Why? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by miffo.swe (547642) <daniel.hedblom@P ... om minus painter> on Thursday November 03, 2011 @08:21AM (#37932548) Homepage Journal

    Exactly my take on this. Its fun for about ten minutes and then 99% of all people just shrugs and move on. I have played with voice control for a long time and i always thought the problem was the software. Later on i have come to accept that voice input is just a gimmick. No matter how good the software becomes it still sucks as an input method, unless you are speaking with another human.

    And if we take a look at the world and all the killing going on, does it look like we humans are good at interpreting language?

  • by NiteShaed (315799) on Thursday November 03, 2011 @08:21AM (#37932550)

    "Gary Morgenthaler, a recognized expert in artificial intelligence and a Siri board member

    Wow, board member of company says company's technology is the most amazing and groundbreaking thing since sliced bread. What a surprise. This just in, Bill Gates says Windows is the best OS, and Larry Ellison says Oracle databases are hands-down unbeatable.

    I don't blame the guy for saying it, of course he probably thinks his product is the best. Maybe he even believes the thing about the two-year advantage, but he's also got a pretty vested interest in making other people believe it too.

  • by foniksonik (573572) on Thursday November 03, 2011 @08:27AM (#37932600) Homepage Journal

    You are an idiot.

    By extending your logic only trained pilots should ever fly in a plane; only mechanics should ever drive a car, only engineers should ever operate machinery, only physicists should ever use electricity.

    Technology should empower people. That is its sole purpose. Apple groks this. They don't make computers or gadgets for geeks to tinker with, they make tools for average people to use in their everyday life.

  • This is just scary (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 03, 2011 @08:30AM (#37932636)

    "Apple's biggest advantage over any other voice application out there today is the massive data Siri will collect in the next 2 years"

    Anyone else regard that statement with pure horror?

  • by NimbleSquirrel (587564) on Thursday November 03, 2011 @08:31AM (#37932654)
    Seriously, Apple seems to be grasping at straws for any edge over Android phones. I'm not going to make comparisons between Siri and Google Voice Search, as plenty of others are doing that. What I will say is that Siri (and other voice command systems) are gimmicks at best. Unless their entire client base is visually impaired, I doubt that it will see any serious day-to-day use once the novelty has worn off. Texting and twitter are growing because people aren't talking into their phones. What makes Apple think that Siri will change that trend?
  • Laughable... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Assmasher (456699) on Thursday November 03, 2011 @08:36AM (#37932720) Journal

    ...Siri is a decent aggregation of existing voice recognition, grammar based interactivity, and knowledge base retrieval. People, including ourselves, have been doing this for years. Our company does this in a more limited fashion, but technically very very similarly to allow Pentagon staff officers (and others) to navigate the GINORMOUS amounts of documentation that arise from large scale plans (thousands upon thousands of PDFs) - for example: "I need to see all of the documents produced in 2007 relating to humvee mine resistance testing" - "Sure, Dave, I can do that..." - and bingo 27 PDFs show up in a (rather special ;) ) UI.

    Siri is Apple's way of drawing attention from the fact that they do not have an iPhone 5, or an iPad 3. It is Apple's way of drawing attention away from the fact that Android phones are out 'innovating' them in the hardware arena. Apple knows that they are winning the individual phone brand battle, but starting to lose the mobile war; ergo, the purchase of Saab defense systems mapping software in order to cut themselves further from Google.

    It is the PC market playing itself out all over again. Apple makes a great software platform, but is greedy about it and doesn't let other hardware manufacturer's use that platform (not to mention their greed in the App market - protecting us from ourselves? LOL), locks out Flash, locks out Java (because they're unstable and really not part of the web - LOL again.) All of these decisions work great for Apple in the short run (5 years or so - just like with the PC) - in the long run it literally kills them.

    Siri is a distraction akin to "hey, hey! Look over here at this hand, not the hand holding virtually the same phone you've been buying for so long now..."

  • 60 comments (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Pikoro (844299) <init AT init DOT sh> on Thursday November 03, 2011 @08:39AM (#37932750) Homepage Journal

    And nobody noticed that this means apple is recording and analyzing every Sirius command?! Creepy!

  • Re:Iris (Score:5, Insightful)

    by poetmatt (793785) on Thursday November 03, 2011 @08:41AM (#37932774) Journal

    It's mostly done for the few people that care. As much as apple would love for siri to sound like an amazing feature, it is far from groundbreaking and most people just don't care.

    Essentially what it gets used for is a decent voice command here or there. I forgot what site it was that was analyzing siri's data usage and categorized people by number of uses per day. I think the average was 3. People use their phones more than that in a day, let alone what that shows of siri.

  • by AnttiV (1805624) on Thursday November 03, 2011 @08:45AM (#37932820)
    Seriously, mod parent up. Although voice-activated things have been possible for the longest time (voice dialling, google voice search, etc), I have NEVER heard ANYONE use those. Ever. At least here in Finland, people DO NOT speak to the PHONES, they speak, THROUGH the phone to someone else. Jeez, we don't even speak to answering machines, we hang up :D Much, much, MUCH than more important than Siri to people I know, is the ability to personalize, everything. Covers, ringtones, logos, you name it. I have witnessed about 5 or 6 circumstances where people have bought and Android phone over iPhone SOLELY for the fact that you can't "mod" iPhone in any way that would have a real impact. Every iPhone in this whole world looks (almost) EXACTLY like the other. You cannot make an iPhone "your" phone, it is "just an iPhone", where as with Android, you can. From where I stand, THIS is the killer feature, rather than voice commands. People customize pretty much everything they own, so phones are just a natural extension of that habit.
  • Re:60 comments (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Oswald McWeany (2428506) on Thursday November 03, 2011 @08:46AM (#37932840)

    Not just that- they voice profile you.

    Your Siri learns your voice and learns to understand you. The schematics of your individual voice is mapped.

    So now in this privacy-free world- facebook can pick your face out of a crowd and identify you and Apple can hear your voice and identify you. Not long ago there was stories about software that can identify you by your walk.

    Scary- there is no anonymosity anymore... ... except on slashdot- and I have ways of finding out who Anonymous Coward really is.

  • by autojive (560399) on Thursday November 03, 2011 @08:48AM (#37932862)
    Yet you've probably had no problem with Google collecting your data over the past decade?
  • Re:Iris (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mr100percent (57156) on Thursday November 03, 2011 @08:51AM (#37932900) Homepage Journal

    Iris is a weak attempt.

    Siri's advantage isn't the speech recognition or ties to Wolfram Alpha, but that it handles natural language (as TFA is referring to). I can tell Siri "I locked myself out of my apartment" and it will show me a list of nearby locksmiths to choose from via Google Maps. Iris will soon be able to do google lookups of math equations or tell me the capital of a country, but Siri goes far more than that.
    It's not about knowledge or access to data, but about your device recognizing what you mean. This is unlike even established products like Dragon dictate; it stops becoming LCARS from Star Trek and turns into JARVIS from Iron Man. The various wisecracks that Siri can deliver back were also part of Apple's design to give it some attitude.

  • Re:So true (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jellomizer (103300) on Thursday November 03, 2011 @08:53AM (#37932922)

    Well the original iPhone was about 2 years ahead of the market. It doesn't mean they will start seeing copies after two years, but you will see cheap ripoff products for a few years then finally after 2 years you will get something that is truly competitive.

  • by Randle_Revar (229304) <kelly.clowers@gmail.com> on Thursday November 03, 2011 @08:55AM (#37932960) Homepage Journal

    >Most financial news stories are PR
    An awful lot of all news stories are PR. Start looking for that certain tone, look at links to any sources... you will soon see a great many stories are copies of copies of PR releases

  • Re:So true (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 03, 2011 @09:18AM (#37933278)

    While voice narration/navigation has been available for years I'd describe the results as lukewarm. SIRI appears to be a leap forward in terms of both recognition and the tasks it can actually perform. It is really pretty cool.

    You realise Apple just bought Siri off the shelf, they didn't spend years developing it in house, it is in fact one of those "lukewarm" solutions you're describing, it's just that we now have enough data and knowledge to make it work better. I know TFA says there's no off the shelf alternative, but I find it a little hard to believe that Siri was one of a kind - Google already has masses of collected voice data and they have the money to buy the best alternative. The real question is whether Siri actually is a massive advantage - how many people will even bother to use it outside of playing around with it for a couple of days? We won't really know that for many six months to a year, it might go silently into the night, in which case it's no real advantage at all, or it might become the next must have killer app (and by god I hope not, idiots having innappropriately loud telephone conversations are bad enough, if they're doing the same for sending text messages, browsing the web, writing emails etc the world is going to get much worse).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 03, 2011 @09:22AM (#37933334)

    [It only needs] interface tweaks to make it as user friendly as Siri.

    Some people will never understand what goes into good design and solid engineering.

  • Re:Why? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jeffmeden (135043) on Thursday November 03, 2011 @09:23AM (#37933344) Homepage Journal

    People aren't going to use Siri very much, because talking to your phone makes you look stupid.

    How do you make phone calls then without looking stupid?

    By talking "through" your phone, not *to* it. You would look pretty dumb if your coworkers overheard you say "phone, tell my mom hi for me, and that i will be late for dinner"... When you could just, for example, press the button to call your mom and have that conversation...

  • by Paradise Pete (33184) on Thursday November 03, 2011 @09:26AM (#37933384) Journal

    It's just that it's more that now iPhone is a generation ahead in voice recognition where Android was a generation ahead previously.

    So then you agree with him. And "voice recognition" is not what it is, any more than a "wheel" is a car. It won't work without it, but it's only part of the foundation.

  • Re:Why? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Voyager529 (1363959) <voyager529@NOsPaM.yahoo.com> on Thursday November 03, 2011 @10:20AM (#37934242)

    If the voice recognition system is anything like the ones I've dealt with, allow me to explain EXACTLY the issues that occur with such systems.

    In many cases, the call starts with an uninterruptible intro statement that's slightly longer than some of the works of Shakespeare, to the point where the caller just puts the phone down, does their laundry, and comes back later.
    The first menu says "tell me what you're calling about. You can say anything from "problems with my widget" to "I have a billing question"". There is no guidance given as to what to say, so we humans make the mistake of actually taking to the computer like a person and summarizing exactly what we're calling about.
    The computer then makes a guess based on its transcription of the word "the", which of course has NOTHING to do with what we're actually calling about.
    The computer either gives no feedback as to what it heard, or it does...and tries to send us through yet another maze of menus, and repeats the process over again. For a customer who's either looking to cease their service or is frustrated with a purchase, this does the CSR's *no* favors by further exasperating customers.
    At this point, people tend to do one of two things: either they say "representative" repeatedly, or they say something like "schnitzelhaagen" so that the computer can't understand them and fails over to a human being.
    In the case of cell phone companies specifically, they tend to ask for billing credentials NOW, instead of at the outset of a call, and then proceeds to put me on hold for enough time to do another load of laundry. It's an added insult that after giving my account password and the computer green-lighting me that the CSR then asks for the exact same account information I've already given - either pass it along or don't ask on the call, but don't make me repeat myself.
    As a quick aside, the worst company in this regard is Napster. When I had questions, it would send me to an audio recording of various parts of The Fine Manual, as if I hadn't already read it. After burning through eight cellular minutes listening to troubleshooting steps I already knew, I remembered the magic words: "cancel my account". It was at THAT point that I actually got a person on the phone who could help troubleshoot my problem.

    All of this goes back to the underlying problem: voice-based support lines are essentially DOS prompts without the keyboard. Siri seems to be different in that it can actually understand and interpret what the person means, but Siri has yet to be implemented into any 800-number support line I've called and still has her own limitations. If you're going to have a voice activated DOS prompt, don't tell callers that they can "say anything", because they can't. Give short, single-word commands, and not more than five per menu, and no more than two menus deep before you get to a person. If calls can't be sufficiently filtered into 25 possible routes, you may need to reconfigure who actually receives phone calls.

    Siri gets a bit more grace from users because they know that there is an alternative, and because it's generally not problem based. Asking what the weather is like can get a free pass if they have to start the weather app instead. If someone is calling a support number, it means that they already have a problem and need a solution. When their focus is on that problem, you'll hear about a snowball fight in hell before anyone would opt into guessing commands on a command line in order to get their first problem fixed. The solution isn't much better - transcription accuracy may get better, but each person will uniquely describe the issue, so "accurate" and "meaningful to the computer" are two completely separate problems to solve. Thus, the better way is to have the people learn. Tell me: what does it say about a customer who can accurately navigate the support menu? Answer: it means that they've called WAY too many times before, which means that either they are really, REALLY dumb, or there's a legit issue with your pr

  • by jrumney (197329) on Thursday November 03, 2011 @10:30AM (#37934390) Homepage

    "Iris [android.com], does this article look like a steaming pile of turd to you too?"

    Yes Dave, it does look like a poorly researched paid product placement.

  • Re:Two Years? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by dave420 (699308) on Thursday November 03, 2011 @01:46PM (#37937662)
    Voice assistants have been on Android for ages - they pre-date Apple's incarnation of Siri.

Whenever a system becomes completely defined, some damn fool discovers something which either abolishes the system or expands it beyond recognition.

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