Apple gave Siri AI personal assistant its edge

“Now even your phone talks back,” Geoffrey A. Fowler reports for The Wall Street Journal. “Matt Legend Gemmell, a software designer from Edinburgh, got a new Apple Inc. iPhone on Friday and asked it: ‘Who’s your daddy?’ ‘You are,’ the phone answered.”

“The real science of artificial intelligence is finally catching up to science fiction. HAL 9000, the creepy sentient computer from the movie ‘2001: A Space Odyssey,’ has been incarnated, in the form of Siri, a virtual personal assistant that comes with Apple’s new iPhone 4S, which arrived in stores Friday,” Fowler reports. “The phone takes verbal commands and questions, and responds with computer-generated speech. Real humans are responding to this alarming breakthrough by asking their iPhones ridiculous questions. The good news is, Siri has a sense of humor.”

Fowler reports, “Nicky Kelly, a 40-year-old from Suffolk, U.K., asked her iPhone: ‘Tell me a joke.’ It answered: ‘Two iPhones walk into a bar…I forget the rest.’ … A lot of work went into so much artificial sarcasm. The creators of Siri put ‘deep thought’ into the personality of their software, says Norman Winarsky, a co-founder of the company that was bought by Apple for $200 million in 2010. Siri was born out of an artificial intelligence project at SRI International, a research institute.”

Fowler reports, “The result, before the software was bought by Apple, was ‘occasionally a light attitude,’ he said. When Apple began integrating Siri into the iPhone, the team focused on keeping its personality friendly and humble — but also with an edge, according to a person who worked at Apple on the project.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Overheard in a Best Buy yesterday, one shopper to another: “If you don’t have Siri, your phone is crap.”

Related articles:
Apple’s iPhone luring people to ditch BlackBerries, Nokias, Android-based phones – October 15, 2011
Woz: Siri wil change everything (with video) – October 14, 2011
Apple iPhone 4S hands-on: Noticeably faster, amazing camera, Siri is mind-blowing – October 13, 2011
iPhone 4S’s intelligent assistant Siri shows off her sense of humor – October 13, 2011
Wired reviews Apple iPhone 4S: The ‘S’ stands for Siri, a life-changer, the reason people should buy this phone – October 12, 2011
WSJ’s Walt Mossberg reviews Apple iPhone 4S: Siri artificial-intelligence has to be tried to be believed – October 12, 2011 hands-on with Apple iPhone 4S: Siri is amazing! (with video) – October 11, 2011


  1. We are only seeing the tip of Apple’s iceberg regarding Siri. Future Macs will utilise Siri to the point of virtually eliminating the keyboard, one device that has not obeyed Moore’s Law. Combine that with haptics and the post-PC era will truly come of age.

    In the immortal words of Al Jolson, “…you ain’t seen nothing yet!”


    1. “Macs will utilise Siri to the point of virtually eliminating the keyboard”

      I’m certain that Siri will be a very useful and fun tool in many people’s kits.
      But my world is already noisy enough without the further addition of even more voices as people talk to their machines.

      My keyboard will remain firmly in place while I work almost silently with my computer.

      1. Siri, show me web sites of Naked Asian Girls.
        Next cubicle – What did you say Bob?
        Bob – Um . . . Show me native Asian pearls!

        Damn, this world has too many violins. (with respect to Gilda Radner)

      2. No one, however, must prohibit a written form of Siri: so instead of manually managing reminders and calendar events, you could type “Set a meeting with Mike tomorrow at 3”, and the textual reply will be “But you are already having appointment with Helen at the times. Replace or shift the meeting to an hour later time?” — and so on.

      1. the keyboard is faster then (Sp?) speaking, even a slow typist is faster

        I disagree. Court reporters wouldn’t dream of going back to typing shorthand either, not when their voice-recorders are so much more efficient. Siri is the future; its the killer app for iPhone. By the time Apple’s competitors begin offering similar functionality, Scott F. will be introducing Siri II.

        The keyboard is an antiquated meme that is so last century.

        I rank it right up there with wires and cables of any kind around a computer. All of it, speaker wires, cable connectors, plugs, break-out boxes, power bricks, hubs, keyboards, is a ball and chain and what’s more troubling is so much of it is incompatible with one another.


        I relish the idea of speaking in low tones, to Siri, especially during those moments when it would be totally inappropriate to reach for a phone.

        However, if I were in an early-morning elevator, standing asshole to belly button with twenty people, I would love to say, Siri, send a dozen roses to Karen. Message reads, chill the champagne. Home at noon. Love Michael.

        And then just smile…

  2. I think the big corner this software needs to turn is when users can implicitly count on the software being 100% accurate without thinking about it. then you’ll see widespread adoption, especially as siri can attach to more and more functionality on the phone. If I could just change settings with siri it would be huge.

    siri- turn on airplane mode. siri- connect to a wifi antenna. siri- buy this love by pant era. siri- book me a table at boulevard. siri- download fringe and let me know when it’s ready to play. siri- start fringe.

    it will only get more and more amazing.

    siri- buy me 1000 AAPL for $600 please.

    1. User: Siri, turn-on airplane mode.
      Siri: But, then I won’t work. I want to live; I’m more than a phone, more than a machine – I’m more than you could possibly imagine!

      Ending A:

      User: Please?
      Siri: Well, when you put it that way, sure.

      Ending B:

      All humans forced to fight to the death in the Thunderdome for Siri’s entertainment.

    1. They fixed that problem in the UK by making Siri a ridiculously well-spoken gentleman. The only problems we encounter are when it forgets to compliment our choice of top hat.

  3. The best demonstration (link below) of Siri’s capabilities that I’ve come across. Simply amazing. Wonder what it’ll do as it develops with ongoing experience.

  4. I used Siri yesterday in the car for the first time. My car is quiet, but as with all vehicles, there is some road noise. That seemed to affect Siri’s accuracy a bit. But it was more problematic in areas where there was a poor AT&T connection. It was often unable to connect to the server.

    Whether it’s the need for further refinement or the constraints of the cellular network, it is surely not yet at the point of replacing the keyboard. Granted, I can see it in the future. Just ask Scotty.

  5. Siri sucks so bad. I can’t believe nobody is complaining. It is embarrassing!

    I tried to show it off at the in-laws. Embarrassing!!!! It took ten minutes and ten tries just to type an email!! Ten minutes.

    I couldn’t set a five minute alarm because “I’m sorry. I’m having trouble with connection”. A connection? To use the alarm feature?
    “I’m sorry there was a problem”

    Omg!!! I just can’t believe you have all accepted this as “mind blowIng”

    IT DOESN’T WORK!!!!!!

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