Typical Siri stupidity

Dr. Drang writes for leancrew, “Casey Liss tweeted out a complaint about a typical Siri stupidity:”

Casey: “How many days has it been since December 18?”
Siri: “It’s three hundred forty-five days until then.”

“This was a bit of a shock to me, not because I thought Siri was smarter than this, but because I had been collecting similar Siri screenshots concerning dates and times for a few days and was planning to write a post about it,” Dr. Drang writes. “Context has always been one of Siri’s weaknesses, and that’s where it failed Casey. Any normal human being would understand immediately that a question asked in January about days since a day in December is talking about the December of the previous year. But Siri ignores (or doesn’t understand) the word “since” and calculates the days until the next December 18.”

“Siri can be good at date and time math, but it needs the right syntax,” Dr. Drang writes. “Not surprising for a computer program, but not how Siri has been promoted by Apple.”

Check out all of the examples in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: It’s annoying. This sort of stuff is why Siri has the reputation it does. Why can’t Siri correctly answer the simple question, “How many days has it been since December 18?”

“Since,” dummy. I said “since,” not “until!”

Some people gripe when we call Tim Cook’s Apple “lazy,” “mismanaged,” and/or “unfocused” in certain areas (see also: Mac Pro), but the shoe fits: Siri debuted October 12, 2011*. Steve Jobs died on October 5, 2011. 7+ long years later, Tim Cook owns Siri and, in far too many ways, she is as stupid as the day she was born.

We’re hoping that, with the hiring of John Giannandrea, Apple has finally fully recognized whatever internal, structural, political, management issues the company had that retarded Siri’s progress for years and that we’ll see some real improvements, especially in contextual understanding, at WWDC 2019.

Maybe Apple will even feel confident about advertising Siri again!

*Siri debuted as an iOS app in February 2010 before Apple bought it.

AI guru John Giannandrea named to Apple’s executive team – December 20, 2018
Former Apple employees on Eddy Cue: Siri and Eddy were ‘a bad fit’ – September 5, 2018
Apple’s Siri improved by 11 percentage points in correct answers over the last 15 months – July 25, 2018
Apple combines machine learning and Siri teams under John Giannandrea – July 10, 2018
Apple’s ‘personal assistant activation’ patent application hints at improved Siri – May 10, 2018
iOS 11.4 will allow Siri to recognize AirPlay commands – May 3, 2018
iPhone X owners are extremely satisfied with basically everything except Siri – April 20, 2018
Apple’s Siri, HomePod and the voice assistant showdown – April 6, 2018
Apple’s A.I. efforts get shot of adrenaline with Giannandrea coup – April 6, 2018
A.I. defector gives Apple access to Google’s secrets – April 6, 2018
Gene Munster: Poaching AI chief John Giannandrea from Google a win for Apple – April 5, 2018
Apple hires Google’s A.I. chief to improve Siri – April 4, 2018


    1. One big structural difference is I think Siri used the cloud in the beginning, but now the recognition is happening on the device. Makes it more secure (no one can subpoena Apple for what you asked Siri because they don’t know), but it also puts it forever at a disadvantage against all other cloud based services. They made their decision, now they’re stuck with it.

      1. You are aptly named.

        In iOS 11.2, Apple added the ability for Siri to recognize commands related to music playback that work offline (for AirPods).

        Siri requires access to Apple’s servers for everything else.

        1. The majority of the machine learning is happening on the iOS device, including the “Hey Siri” response, which is fairly complex. That is a difference from when they depended on Nuance.

          The cloud IS used for additional recognition of data (which is anonymized and encrypted before being sent from the device). Both Amazon and Google know EXACTLY who and where the request is coming from. That helps greatly when determining how to respond to a request. Apples focus on privacy is admirable, but they will need to do more work to attain the same level of context awareness.

  1. I hate to break it to them, but none of them are ‘smart’. They are voice-activated search engines and nothing more. Maybe the Dr. is the fool for relying on them so heavily. First world problems never cease to amaze.

    1. So my daughter was doing a science project to track the phases of the moon and she asks Siri on January 8, “when is the full moon?”

      Siri: “Saturday December 22”

      She didn’t ask when “WAS” the full moon. Now when she changed the query to “when is the next full moon?” she correctly heard “Sunday January 20.”

  2. My Xfinity voice remote is smarter and more accurate than Siri, Siri gets nothing right for me to the point that its a game with my kids to see what the off the wall answer will be. a JOKE, ALSO, even Apple Messages voice to text sucks and it’s ability to predict correct words when texting is a JOKE, It amazes me that the AI will choose words that would NEVER be used in the same sentence together, or grammatically would never be the right context. Then its voice activated “knowledge” with MAPS is still way off, I’ve said it over and over, it is not just a suggestion that Apple goes into full search, isnt that what SIRI should be? and If they did wouldnt everyone here love to see Google stock crash from competition? and it totally makes sense for Apple to be in search and content, like their own YouTube. once again, my xfinity box “Hears” it right better than siri.

  3. Alexa is eating Apple’s lunch. It is incredible that a mature technology like siri (which apple was first to the market with) should get it’s clock cleaned so thoroughly by a copycat technology in a fraction of the time. It’s embarrassing.

  4. When Apple delayed the launch of the HomePod during Christmas season 2017, I jumped on the Alexa bandwagon. I now have 6 Echo Dots in my house w/ two of them in Faux battery powered portable speaker bases (that sound pretty good to me!). All of that cost me $280 – less than 1 HomePod would have cost me.

    It also opened my eyes to how truly stupid Siri is. Alexa is rarely wrong, rarely requires me to repeat my question and never delays. I can’t get Siri to set an timer on my Apple Watch, without getting a message that says “I’ll nutch you when I’m ready to start your timer!”

    It also opened my eyes to Amazon Music – something I was already paying for with my Prime membership, and covers my needs for music. In a little over a year, I can only think of maybe 2 times Amazon Music didn’t have a song I was looking for. So then, I stopped paying $10 for Apple MUSIC.

    It really is amazing sometimes what you find, when you look over the walls of the garden!

  5. Apple debuted “Casper”, a voice interface for the Mac, back in August 1993. (Yes, technically, it was released 29 July 1993, but the public presentation was done in early August along with several other things being pushed by Sculley.) It was amazing for its day. It was one of the few “accent independent” interfaces of the day.

    So Apple has been pursuing voice recognition systems for well over 25 years — and still others with much, much less time at it are doing better.


    1. Interesting thing for you to suggest.

      The real question is “Do we get smarter over time using digital assistants.”

      I don’t know whether anyone has researched that.

      My guess is we will never be able to ask difficult questions because of context and personal characteristics (a wheelchair bound person can’t ask how long it will take him to go up the stairs) that the “assistant” can’t know or put together logically.

      Are we coming to the point of the Moorlock’s duming down the Eloi even further?

  6. I am not sticking up for Apple nor Siri, because it does need help, but the person that asked that question should have included the year with his query. You have to do that with Amazon Alexa too.

  7. In understanding what I am saying Siri is massively better than it was 2 years ago but yup doing what it needs to do after understanding those words is its biggest problem. I do find that difficult to understand as in many cases it is surely much easier to put something like a command into operation than it is understanding the command in the first place. A simple example I ask Siri to play my music she knows what to do but its like her hands are tied because she has to ask me to actually turn on iTunes in which case I may as well start playing my music manually. Is this still the case in the late OS? Clearly the problems stretch a lot wider than Siri itself there are problems with the connection rods between her and the rest of the OS let alone agreed access to other companies offerings and that is inexcusable. But it is a malaise in the management perhaps more than in Siri itself which seems to be on a indefinite leash… which is why the original developers left Apple I believe.

  8. I find that Siri correctly parses my questions but then gives the wrong answer because it seems to then reinterpret according to a list of frequently asked questions. If your question is not as common she just answers the question she hears the most. Really like someone who can’t speak English guessing what you are asking based on one or two of the words they recognise.

  9. My biggest gripe with Siri is the inability to understand me when I say “him”. Instead, it wrongly interprets that I’m saying “them”. And I don’t mumble or stutter!

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