My iPhone 4 friend Siri and I are holding hands, but haven’t consummated the relationship. I have yet to use her for anything other than gag questions, using Siri for, well, using Siri. She did give the weather recently, but I’m a long way from the symbiotic relationship she has with, say, John Malkovich. (Is it just me, or should that guy he plays in the Apple ads get a life?)
Do you remember how excited people were when Siri first waltzed her cool self onto the iPhone? If not, this video will remind you. Maybe you played with her for hours, too:
I need to get serious with Siri really fast, because she’s invading my world. Everybody’s favorite disembodied voice will soon be in just about every car on the planet, including new models from Audi, BMW, GM, Chrysler, Honda, Jaguar, Mercedes and Toyota. Plucky Ford seems to be going it alone.
The idea of Siri as your dashboard assistant is obviously incredibly appealing, and no automaker wants to be left behind. It’s not actually her voice that matters, it’s her ability to complete tasks seamlessly when so many other auto voice recognition systems are incredibly clunky. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve failed in attempts to get what I want — even the supposedly intuitive Ford Sync has given me trouble in this regard. With Siri in control, I will actually be able to say, “Play ‘Someone I Used to Know’ by Goyte,” and it won’t even matter that I don’t know how to pronounce “Goyte.”
In the car, Siri will be the go-to person for the obvious stuff — finding music, placing phone calls and texts, locating a good sushi restaurant — but I bet she could also raise and lower windows, start wipers, dial in a cruise control setting, close the trunk, and more. Apple’s auto plan is called “Eyes Free,” and it definitely would help with driver distraction issues. As infotainment systems especially get more complicated, they really will need effective voice commands. And poorly functioning recognition complaints are the number one complaint about new cars in a new J.D. Power survey. Siri works.
Conflicts meant I missed a demonstration of Cadillac’s latest voice technology (above) last week at the Classic Car Club in Manhattan, but I hear they told the system to play a song, and the “yes, master” voice sounded exactly like Siri. It wasn’t her, though she will soon appear in Caddys.
GM’s Mike Hichme said it was “basically” the same voice, and that’s because its Cue system is from the same Nuance Communications that makes Siri. The company hit the ball out of the park, and is becoming the dominant player.
Siri is cool and all, but if she’s ubiquitous in every car on the road, might the romance flag? Could we, hate to say it, get tired of her? To tell the truth, I like the voice recog systems that let you dial in the accent of your choice. I’ve always been partial to having an Australian take me through the GPS turns, but coming home from Hong Kong Gardens, I might prefer someone Chinese.
Voice recognition is here to stay, and will only get better. At least for now, Siri is the best we’ve got, and she deserves her moment in the sun.