Five years on, why doesn’t Apple’s Siri work better than it does?

“There are some fundamental differences between Apple and Google when it comes to privacy, and I believe those differences will allow Google to continue to lead in the area of digital assistants infused with artificial intelligence,” Stephen Hackett writes for 512 Pixels. “However, consumer privacy has nothing to do with some of the simple tasks Siri still fails at doing.”

“I would like to think that some part of the Siri team is dedicated to making sure the service knows enough about current events to answer basic questions about them,” Hackett writes. “It sure seems like Apple’s focus on making Siri good at inward-facing features on iOS and macOS have come with a cost: that when it comes to interacting with real-world information, Siri is behind.”

“Siri should feel like a living, growing platform and it just doesn’t,” Hackett writes. “Even SiriKit, which allows developers to build plugins for the service, doesn’t get Apple far enough down the road. This is a platform vendor problem, and not one a handful of apps can solve.”

Read more in the full article here.

Dan Moren writes for Macworld, “This week, veteran tech journalist Walt Mossberg penned a scathing indictment of Apple’s voice-based assistant, in which he posed the question that most of us have asked at one time or another: ‘why does Siri seem so dumb?'”

“He’s not wrong,” Moren writes. “While I’ve had better luck than Mossberg in some of my interactions with the feature, I run up against rough edges pretty much every single time I try to use Siri for anything. Most of my iPhone-using friends tend to view Siri as more of a curiosity than a useful tool.”

Moren writes, “Last year I put forth some ideas about what a Siri 2.0 should include, but let’s take a step back and look at the bigger issues here.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Why does Siri work better on our Apple Watches than on our iPhones? Are we just asking better questions (for Siri) because it’s more spur-of-the-moment by just lifting our wrists than hauling out our iPhones? And/or are the Apple Watch microphones working better for Siri?And/or are we just imagining Siri works best on Apple Watch? If so, it’s a strong illusion because when we decide to use Siri, our first thought is to use our Apple Watches over any other device, Mac included, because we feel it has the best chance of working, based on our Siri-using experience.

SEE ALSO:
Mossberg: Why does Apple’s Siri seem so dumb? – October 12, 2016
Apple releases tvOS 10 with new Siri features, improved search, dark mode, and more – September 13, 2016
Apple’s Siri is set to control your home – September 6, 2016
An exclusive inside look at how artificial intelligence and machine learning work at Apple – August 24, 2016
Personal assistant bots like Apple’s Siri have a serious problem – July 18, 2016
Tim Bajarin: Siri is crucial to the Apple’s future – July 5, 2016
Apple’s Siri feels like a true personal assistant on Macintosh – July 1, 2016
The time has come to think different about Apple’s Siri – June 30, 2016
Conversing with Apple’s Siri in macOS Sierra already feels almost natural – June 22, 2016
Apple’s Siri digital assistant made Cortana look bad at WWDC – June 14, 2016

29 Comments

  1. I’m sorry to say that Apple is now more about appearances, both in terms of design of software, devices, etc than they are about how all of those things actually work as opposed to their image. But the image is becoming tarnished.

    I make a good portion of my living on Apple products, 95% Mac, 4% iPhone and 1% iPad. If it were not for the 3rd party apps for Mac, which really are the best overall in the creative world, it would not matter. Mail and Safari are my two primary Apple apps, and I need to use Firefox and Google Chrome for some specialized things I can’t do on Safari due to incompatibility.

    Apple user since 1983, and Mac user since 1988. Does it matter to anyone at Apple? Who knows.

  2. MDN does bring up an interesting point. Does Siri work better at answering the same questions when posed via the Apple Watch vs directly to the iPhone the Apple Watch is connected to. Anyone know of a comparison someone has done?

  3. Bad news when Uncle Walt criticizes Apple. Bad PR, and an uncomfortable truth. Luckily, Samsung has its own problems. But Apple needs to improve Siri and get those Macs out. No one cares how much you like Siri on your watch.

  4. I have mixed feelings about this. In some ways, Siri has gotten really much better. Dictation is great, asking Siri to search things via the watch is really good, having Siri add things to notes works really well. I’ve also had good luck having Siri find things for me on my Mac, though I’ve only just started doing that.

    However, as many have pointed out Siri doesn’t do that well with more complex or chained queries. She also doesn’t do that well with specialized vocabularies. As soon as you get away from very common words Siri seems to stumble. Just try reading the list of elements from the periodic table and see what you get.

    It would be great if we could enable specialized vocabulary for different applications.

  5. Tim Cook’s overall complacency in running Apple. I think the former CEO would have yelled and screamed to get Siri working the way it’s supposed to. It’s really sad to see a company like Amazon come along and jump ahead of Apple in voice assistance. It’s really hard to understand what’s going on at Apple. I’m in no position to criticize and maybe money only can’t buy improvements. I simply do not understand how Amazon can find good talent and Apple can’t. Siri has been around a long time. The thing is, Apple could have released Siri on the desktop platform a long time ago but didn’t. Maybe things would have been sorted out by now. I don’t know why Siri had to stay exclusive to iOS all these years. Is Siri just another Apple hobby?

    1. I don’t think it’s that Amazon is finding the best talent, it is because the person leading them has his vision. In Amazon’s case it is to become the best seller of products and services and all their efforts are aimed squarely at that mission. The data they acquire from their customers through searches and purchases as well as customer initiated corrections to Alexa’s Voice recognition push it quickly ahead.

      Apple’s appears to be to create the best consumer computer/device backed by an integrated eco-system. Right now they seem to be overly focused on the devices while their computers are falling by the wayside. Their integration efforts are somewhat thwarted by their policy of extreme sandboxing and security and as a result ‘lobotimizing’ Siri.

      Google seems focused on total integration of all their services and products and has a much easier time of it by having a less restrictive policy on indexing everything giving their Assistant much more real-world data to work with.

      I feel the core of each of the above companies at the moment can be boiled down to Amazon – Logistics/Selling, Google – Interconnection of Data, and Apple – Consumer consumption of media.

  6. Apple needs to implement a feedback app like Amazon has done with the Alexa.

    Having the ability to receive feedback has really improved the Alexa.

    If Siri learns it is not apparent to me. It is still making the same mistakes after three years.

    1. The feedback app that Amazon uses doesn’t enable Alexa to become smarter, it just helps it to understand the words you spoke. Siri’s problems are deeper than that.

  7. Tonight I needed directions to the home of a friend in my neighborhood in NJ to whose house I had not been. I said, “Siri, I need driving directions to 29 Navesink Avenue.” Siri heard and transcribed “29 Nava Sink Avenue” and then promptly said: “Getting directions to Calle Nova 29, Mazatlán, Mexico.” 2,219 miles from my home. Can’t make this stuff up.

  8. I asked Siri who the presidential candidates are and she got both parties correct. So either my Siri works better than Walt’s or Siri was fixed after he wrote his article. Has anyone else tested Siri with those questions?

      1. I asked the exact question Walt asked, but I see this in the article linked above: If you try most of these broken examples right now, they’ll work properly, because Apple fixed them after I tweeted screenshots of most of them in exasperation and asked the company about them. So I guess Walt garnered enough of Apple’s attention to warrant them to “fix” it.

    1. Siri got it correct on my device as well: “Who are the United States presidential candidates?” What Siri doesn’t get is, “What are the polls in the U.S. Election?” or “Who is leading in the polls…”

    2. √ I asked:
      “Siri, who are the presidential candidates?”

      Siri heard:
      “Siri, who are the presidential candidate <-Singular.

      Siri's answer was perfection:
      "The candidates appearing in major national polls are (in randomized order) Democratic Party nominee Hillary Clinton, Republican Party nominee Donald Trump, Green Party nominee Jill Stein, and Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson."

      But keep in mind that I'm used to talking (attempting to talk) to Apple's comparatively crap Plaintalk voice recognition system and that I'm practiced at and used to giving speaking presentations.

  9. I understand the privacy concern, but can’t we expect an improvement in voice recognition without sacrificing privacy? In that Siri will at least understand the words we speak while not always being able to provide an answer? Half of my queries beyond the standard “start timer” “start workout” etc. aren’t even understood.

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