Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Siri - Seriously?

On Sunday I tested out the virtual assistant Siri on my iPhone 4S.  I've had the phone some three months but had never tried Siri out.

So, is Siri like the perfect assistant shown in the commercials?  Is it a true virtual assistant?

The short answer is "sometimes".

I had out of town company staying at our house and another relative's house..  There were 7 of us, and we wanted to eat breakfast out.  We had arranged to meet at a restaurant, one that normally has a lot of seating, and have breakfast.

We sent someone into the restaurant to make sure they had seats.  It turned out there was a large reunion in there and there were no tables available.

So here we were - 10am on a Sunday morning, prime breakfast time.  Now what?

One of the party said "you have a smartphone.  Why don't you find us another restaurant?" Another relative chimed in "Why don't you use Siri?" Luckily, she knew how to bring Siri up.

"Where near me can I eat breakfast?" I asked.

Siri translated my voice into text (accurately) and responded "I see 19 restaurants near you whose reviews mention breakfast."  It brought them up.

Some of them were quite far away (7 or 8 miles).  I knew that one was closed permanently due to the flood we had last September. 6, 7 and 8th.  So, in other words, the database Siri was using was not too recent.

Two of us had eaten in one of the listed restaurants, and liked it.  "Why don't you call and see if they have tables?" So back to Siri I went.  "What is the number for ______?" I asked.

Siri responded 'would you like me to call the number?" I said yes, and we made the connection.

After breakfast, we wanted to go somewhere and I asked for "directions to the Vestal Rail Trail". This time Siri didn't understand me.  First, someone else was talking in the background, and Siri picked up a few words from that person.  And, it thought I was saying "Festal Rail Trail" so it couldn't help me.

So - rating these experiences:

1.  Siri is great if you ask about restaurants.  Ditto if you ask it to call the number of a business. 

2. If you are out of towners, you may have a problem.  The database Siri connected with for us was at least 10 months out of date; possibly longer.  Of course, as they say, garbage in, garbage out.  Not Siri's fault.  But worth some caution.

3.  If you use an unusual word, like 'Vestal", Siri may have problems understanding you.

The Apple website suggests that the more you use Siri, it will start to understand your accent.  (My accent?  Native New York City mixed with Arkansas and 25 plus years of upstate NY.)

So, rating this exexperience I would give Siri a B.  It's a high enough grade that I will try her...I mean it, again.

Have you given Siri a test?  Did it work for you?

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