/ Technology

For Siri: I’m won over by iPhone 4S’ voice control software

Despite the naysayers circling Apple’s latest software innovation – a voice-controlled “personal assistant” called Siri – I’m right behind it. The iPhone 4S goes on sale today, will you buy it for Siri?

Who wants to look stupid talking into their phone? No one wants to hear people doing it, either. Phones have had voice recognition for years and no one uses it. It’s a gimmick and it’s got a stupid name. The pessimism seeps from the cynics.

Of course, they’re right on the last point. Siri is a stupid name. It would be much better if you could give your “personal assistant” (as Apple is calling it) your own choice of name. I’d call mine “Gerald Bobbington” – perhaps GBob for short. “GBob, take me to the nearest drinking emporium.” On second thoughts…

It’s not hard to say I’m Siri

Silly names aside, the negative reaction to Apple’s Siri voice command system is entirely predictable. “It’s new and it sounds too good to be true, so it must be complete madness.”

Plus, all the incumbent flim flam that comes with any Apple launch guarantees as many dissenting voices shouting just as loud as Apple’s most blinkered devotees. How tedious.

So let’s step back for a moment and judge Siri purely on its merits. Assuming it’s as effective as Apple suggests, and there’s a growing body of independent opinion to back it up, then comparing Siri to any existing voice command system is pointless. It’s a genuine leap forward.

I’ve tried using voice commands on my current iPhone 4 and it’s patchy at best. Siri, on the other hand, appears to handle natural language requests in a way not seen on a consumer device before. And the key word there is “natural”.

Say “call and-rew van-der-vell mo-bile” out loud as if you’re squawking English to a particularly snooty French waiter and you’re bound to sound pretty silly. Ask ‘what’s the time in Melbourne’ in an entirely normal voice, however, and it isn’t such a big deal.

It could make life easier

And when you’re busy, on the move, or simply unable to use your hands, the ability to perform commands in this manner is genuinely useful. There are numerous instances where stopping, typing in my pass code, awkwardly typing in searches would have been made immeasurably less painful were it possible through voice commands alone.

This isn’t an excuse for people to run around shouting into their phones everywhere, the same way people shouldn’t listen to music on full blast or have loud conversations in public.

Voice control and Siri is a tool, a useful one, which if used properly will make doing things a little easier. That seems like something worth supporting to me.

What do you think about Apple’s iPhone 4S voice recognition software? Will voice controlled phones take off? Or do you agree with Tim Gee’s Conversation that Siri is just a gimmick?

Would you use voice-controlled software on your smartphone?

Maybe - if the software works well (41%, 156 Votes)

No - voice control is a stupid idea (28%, 104 Votes)

Yes - voice control is the future (27%, 102 Votes)

I already use it (4%, 15 Votes)

Total Voters: 377

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The ‘Siri can understand natural language’ argument doesn’t really fly with me. This isn’t a revolution. My Android phone can hear me perfectly well when I’m speaking normally and fast – so far with my tests with Siri it isn’t any better.

However, it is funner to use – we’ve had a good laugh on Twitter about its replies to silly questions or statements like ‘I love you’ replied with ‘I bet you say that to all of Apple’s products’. And there is some usefulness in it finding certain information for you, or setting up meetings and alarms.

However, at the moment – Android and Google is ahead? Why because the maps functionality actually works (it doesn’t yet with Siri) so I can get directions, find the best restaurant, all that useful stuff that the iPhone 4S desperately needs.

Is this the first time Apple has sold a product based on a Beta piece of software that doesn’t yet work?