Apple explains how it’s making Siri smarter without endangering user privacy

“I wake up and put on my Apple Watch, and while I’m making coffee, I look down and see that traffic could be gnarly on the way to work, so I move a little quicker. I also see a reminder of a late-morning meeting, then a mid-afternoon flight down to L.A. As I leave the house, I glance down and see that the weather will be clear and sunny. At the airport, my boarding pass will show up on my wrist,” Mark Sullivan reports for Fast Company. “Over the course of the day, between these little assists, my Watch shows me a few photos of my new niece.”

“That’s what a day with the new Siri watch face (in the latest watchOS 4) might look like. It’s a more personalized and proactive version of Siri, and one that might show up in other Apple OSs and devices,” Sullivan reports. “Siri is slowly using more artificial intelligence to behave more like a human assistant who knows enough about you to give you helpful little nudges and reminders at the right times during the day. In theory, the more the assistant learns about you, your habits, and your habitat, the more insightful and helpful those little assists can become.”

“In Silicon Valley’s growing AI war, one narrative that’s emerged over the past year says that Apple’s AI efforts lag behind the work of other big tech companies in part because of its dedication to protecting user data,” Sullivan reports. “By not sending users’ personal data to the cloud, it’s been argued, Apple may be hindering Siri’s potential, starving the AI models it depends on of the personal data needed to more personalized and informed assistance to users.”

Sullivan reports, “Apple has been relatively silent on that narrative. But several members of Apple’s AI and Siri teams who recently spoke to Fast Company said user privacy and smart AI are not competing principles.”

Read more in the full article – recommendedhere.

MacDailyNews Take: Siri’s only had her new brain for about two years. Give her some time to get acclimated to it! As Apple Watch users know, since we rely on Siri more than others and have therefore given Apple’s personal assistant anther real chance, Siri is much improved in the last two years versus prior to 2015 when many of us gave up on using it for anything meaningful on our iPhones. Siri is all-new since 2015. If you haven’t recently, give Siri another go – you might be pleasantly surprised!


    1. Untrue. I have tested Siri on many occasions and the Apple AI generally works quite well. I suspect that Siri gives better answers than you, Steve. Perhaps Siri just doesn’t like you. That would not surprise me at all. I don’t like you either.

    2. Could not agree more. Siri is muuuuuuuch worse than what it was just a couple of years ago. The speech recognition (American English) is abysmal.

      I acrually needed it in crucial situations a couple of days ago when evacuating Irma and it failed to understand town names for example. Siri’s multiple failures added to the immense stress of the situation.

  1. I don’t think Siri is too far behind but due to not keeping data in the cloud, syncing that ‘learned’ between all the users’ devices and at the same time not exposing it to others is a huge burden. Not saying Apple can’t do it, but when you contrast it with the competition which does practically the opposite and has a central store to process real-time learned data, the immediate ‘helpfulness’ of the voice assistant will most likely be affected.

  2. My experience with Siri continues to be one of frustration. Follow-up questions seem to never work. Today, using Siri for driving directions, I asked what was the speed limit for the interstate I had just turned on to; that Siri had just directed me to do. She couldn’t even do that, but did give me pages of useless websites to read while I was driving! Useless!

    1. Speaking of speed limits, I was amazed to find that my Dad’s Prius (2016 model I think) will show the speed limit for the road that he is driving on right on the dashboard display near the vehicle speed. Not sure if it is a map data feature or something being transmitted via short range radio for traffic data.

    2. What was the exact question that you asked Siri? Perhaps with just a little bit of thought, you can frame your questions in a way that will yield better answers. Language is a very tricky thing to parse, especially spoken language because people tend to use very poor grammar.

      Example that worked for me…
      I asked Siri: “What is the weather like today?” Received today’s forecast.

      Then, to test an ambiguous conditional, I asked, “What about tomorrow?” I was pleasantly surprised that Siri correctly linked the questions and gave me tomorrow’s forecast.

      Then, to test Siri’s response to an impossible follow-on, I asked “what about ten years from now.” Siri responded, “I can’t forecast that far into the future, but here is the forecast for the next ten days.” That is a very good response, in my opinion.

      To me, that exchange shows that Siri is evolving and becoming much more useful for general tasks. But there are limits – the questions need to be structured reasonably well to get a decent response. Is that unreasonable? I think not.

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