Apple launched Siri, its intelligent personal assistant feature in 2011. It was initially available only on iPhone 4s, but since then Apple has added available on iOS devices such as iPhone 5, iPod touch 5, iPad 4 and iPad mini that were launched last year and the new iPhones launched this week.
After the initial hype, Siri has been tagged as a gimmicky feature as it came with limited support for languages, was quite slow to respond, and did not work occasionally due to server issues.
Apple acknowledged some of the shortcoming, but highlighted that the feature was in beta. Ex-IBM Research engineer Benoit Maison, an expert in speech recognition had explained why Apple had no choice but to release Siri in beta as it wouldn’t have been possible to fine tune and thoroughly tested in the labs like their iOS devices and software updates.
I worked on speech recognition with IBM Research for nearly six years. We participated in DARPA-sponsored research projects, field trials, and actual product development for various applications: dictation, call centers , automotive, even a classroom assistant for the hearing impaired. The basic story was always the same: get us more data! (data being in this case transcribed speech recordings). There is even a saying in the speech community: “there is no data like more data.” Some researchers have argued that most of the recent improvements in speech recognition accuracy can be credited to having more and better data, not to better algorithms. [..]
[..] It is tempting to consider Siri as some kind of artificial intelligence, who, once trained properly, can answer all sorts of questions. The reality is that it is a very complex patchwork of subsystems, many of which handcrafted.
To improve Siri, engineers must painstakingly look at the requests that she could not understand (in all languages!) and come up with new rules to cope with them. There are probably many, many gaps like “abortion clinic” in the current implementation, which will be fixed over time. When Apple states “we find places where we can do better, and we will in the coming weeks”, they are plainly describing how this process works.
It looks like after 2 years, Apple is finally comfortable to remove the beta tag from Siri. 9to5Mac has noticed that Apple has updated its Siri webpages to drop all references to the feature being in beta.
Last week, Apple had this to say about Siri on its product page:
Siri is available in Beta only on iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPad with Retina display, iPad mini, and iPod touch (5th generation) and requires Internet access. Siri may not be available in all languages or in all areas, and features may vary by area. Cellular data charges may apply.
It now reads:
Siri is available on iPhone 4s or later, iPad with Retina display, iPad mini, and iPod touch (5th generation) and requires Internet access. Siri may not be available in all languages or in all areas, and features may vary by area. Cellular data charges may apply.
As you can notice, there is no reference to beta. Apple has also removed the beta tag from the iOS 7 Siri page as you can see below:
iOS 7 brings a number of improvements to Siri such as an all-new user interface, ability to enable or disable system settings toggles, deeper integration with Wikipedia and Twitter, new voices and a lot more clear and natural sound voice. One of the controversial moves Apple has taken is ditch Google in favor of Bing for search results.
So when Apple releases iOS 7 on September 18, Siri will be officially out of Beta.
What do you think about Siri? Do you use it a lot? Let us know in the comments.