Those of you who know me should know that I’m really not a big fan of Apple (biggest understatement of the year?). I agree that they make stunning looking products that most other companies try to copy but I also believe they over charge for that by crazy amounts. That being said, every now and then they show me something that I think has the possibility to be great.
Before we jump into Siri I’d like to flash back to the Xbox Kinect. When I first saw the Kinect I was amazed, and that’s something that doesn’t happen very often to me. Not because of the games or that it was a “Wii killer” but because of the technology behind it. This was a piece of hardware that was only a bit bigger than an old webcam that would track your entire body in 3D space, recognise your face and you could give commands to by talking. This was dreamed about only a few years ago and here it was on a games console for just over £100. Amazing.
Jump forward to now and a lot of people class Kinect as a “gimmick” and I can see where they are coming from but I really don’t blame that on Kinect, I blame that on game developers/publishers trying to shoehorn it into their games. When I pick my Kinect out of the corner and dust it off I am still amazed by it’s tracking and how much more accurate it is than both the Playstation move and Wii. Like all technology you see demos of though it’s never quite as good as they make out or you hope, and for the Kinect it was it’s voice commands. I’m nto sure if it’s because I don’t have an American accent or because I’m often drunk while using it but I have often found myself shouting “Xbox play” a few times before giving up, getting the pad and another beer.
And so we move onto Siri. I didn’t watch the Apple press event where people were hoping for the iPhone 5 for the simple reason that I didn’t care. Unless this magical piece of technology came jailbroken and with 1/2 the price tag I expect it to have then I wont be getting it. Because of this I missed the announcement about Siri, Apple’s new voice command software for it’s iPhone (and probably other i-devices soon). Not wanting to be left out of the loop I recently looked it up and found a video of UK company Stuff.tv with a hands-on which will be at the end of this post. I was impressed. Very impressed.
I had a think about it and I realised that many of the problems that plagued voice command software before no longer existed. The software was often large so it wouldn’t fit on a portable device but now if my phone doesn’t have at LEAST 8gb of storage then I’d go insane. It needed a clear sound to be able to work out what was being said. Well, modern mobile phone mics have noise cancellation and are generally better than expensive mic’s that were around 5 years ago. They took a lot of processing power. Well, phones now have dual core processors. My phone currently has 8 times the power of my first computer in just 1 of it’s cores.
I finally come onto the big one. Search Engines. If I said to some software “What’s the weather like in New York” then there are many steps it has to go through before I get my answer.
First off it has to work out what I actually said, which is no small feat with regional accents, different languages etc. Once it knows what I said, it then has to interpret that so it knows what action to take. Well, it doesn;t really have to do this step. If it can simply get what I said from speech to text then it can simply fire that query off to a Search Engine such as Google. Let’s try it:
There we have it. Wee have a nicely formatted result and none of the work was done on my machine, it was all done by Google and this is the biggest change to modern voice command software, they all have access to this power as they all have access to the internet.
So, in conclusion I’m more than a little impressed with Siri but until I get my hands on it I’m not going to go crazy.
So, we had Kinect which set the bench mark. Now we have Apple raising the bar so now I look to Google to make it open source and improve on it yet again. Don’t let me down Google, I don;t want to have to switch phone!
Video after the read more: