As much as technologists herald the internet and wireless communications as the great inventions of the past few decades, I’m not so sure that the interwebs have helped mankind, and all of our new fangled technology seems to have made us focus on the trivial, not on what’s important to people.
A perfect example is found at every mall, restaurant, public place, or home where the smartphone reigns supreme, and face-to-face conversations are a thing of the past. My children go on a dinner date and sit at the restaurant table, hunched over their iPhones– and text each other. What’s with that? I’m like, ‘It’s time to grow up, kids.” I tell Apple the same thing about Siri.
Elementary School Graduation
The iPhone is a decade old already, and half of that life Siri has been the little child that could, but not quite. It’s as if Siri was a slow child and held back in elementary school for a couple of years. Her dictation capabilities are improved, but she still can’t do much, though sometimes I think what is asked of her obviously is out of place. Here’s an example.
The success of semi-smart voice assistants opens the gates to new convenience and new frustration. We use them in the street, on public transport, in the home , office, even the car, but there’s a problem
Of course. There’s a problem with everything, and technology seems to have a magnetic attraction to disappointment building. The biggest gripe I have with Siri is twofold. She doesn’t always understand my Georgia accent. And, when she does, doesn’t have much to do. Siri is response oriented, not action oriented.
The problem is that most voice assistants, including Siri, don’t have offline modes.
Yeah, what’s with that? How come I can’t get on the internet when there’s no internet connection. Meh!
That’s frustrating for Apple users. It means you can’t use Siri to control your AirPods when you are in AirPlane Mode, won’t get any data when you try to search your Mac, and can’t discreetly ask for directions using your wired earbuds if you find yourself lost with no network connection in a bad part of town.
Of course, that does not happen with Windows PC users or Android smartphone users, right? Sigh.
There is something to be made of having certain Siri commands that do not require an internet connection. Something akin to, “Siri, play something by Elvis Presley (he was a popular singer and movie star of the 50s and 60s, for those readers who have less history with ancient media).” Or, perhaps, “Siri, turn down the volume.” What’s the problem there?
The problem should be obvious to technologists like Jonny Evans but is not. The internet does not reside on our phones. The internet is everywhere there’s a network connection and some electricity, but it’s not all stored in folders on our Macs, iPhones, or iPads. For now, most voice controlled technologies like Siri require massive computational power, humongous databases, huge storage arrays, and those just cannot be stuffed into an app on your phone.
That doesn’t mean Siri should not and cannot get an offline mode. Certain voice activated commands don’t require an internet connection to the servers back on Apple’s farms, so it’s likely Apple is working on something, but for now, if your iPhone does not have an internet connection, then woe is you because Siri won’t know who you are.
That brings me to the obvious question. When will Siri grow up? Apple had something of a head start with a personable, somewhat snarky intelligent personal assistant, and Siri runs on about a billion devices these days, but doesn’t get used much. Why not? Siri doesn’t do much. Frankly, none of these voice controlled assistants do much.
Amazon’s Alexa listens in on conversations, and has a few parlor tricks that other so-called assistants do not, and is good at buying stuff from Amazon, but that’s about it. This is where modern technology sometimes slows to a crawl and every advancement can be measured in tiny increments. Siri listens better, but behaves more like an elementary school students, and doesn’t have much action to back up the hype. Competitor assistants face a similar problem. Why? The technology to integrate Siri commands throughout an operating system, and within specific applications is an enormous undertaking that threatens borders on the insanely complex. And that’s just to get a little school girl-like digital assistant to talk to us and perform a few actions.
Yes, it may be time for Siri to grow up, but that’s going to take another 20 years.