Apple announces Siri voice command for iPhone 4S

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Siri notificiationsApple’s “Let’s Talk iPhone” event demoed the new iPhone 4S and focused heavily on the ability to talk to the device using “Siri,” a new voice command program. During the demo, Siri appeared to understand natural human speech and used it to execute commands (“schedule a meeting”) and answer questions (“Do I need a raincoat today?”). This is a far cry from the current voice commands used by iOS, which (along with virtually every other cell phone) struggles to understand what humans are saying, much less meaning.

The video on Apple’s Siri web page shows a man jogging, asking “Read me the message,” at which point Siri reads a text to him. He says “Reply: definitely see you there,” and the message is sent. A man in a car asks “What’s the traffic like around here,” and Siri launches Maps with a traffic overlay. The man says “Text my wife I’m going to be 30 minutes late.” A woman asks if it’s going to be chilly in San Francisco this weekend, and gets a weather report. Another woman asks how many cups are in 12 ounces, and after “thinking” for a second, Siri serves a web page with the info. A blind woman gets a voice notification of a text, and replies after getting a confirmation of her text read back to her.

In the video for the iPhone itself, a different scene has the jogger using Siri to set up a meeting at 12. Siri notes that the man already has a meeting at noon and asks if he wants to schedule it anyway. The man says “Move it to two.”

Granted, we’re seeing PR videos here, where nothing goes wrong. I’m personally curious to see how well Siri can tell the difference between “Call Mom” and “Call Tom.” Apple’s promising a lot here, and we’ll see how well it can deliver.

Siri will initially be available in beta for English, German, and French, and will work only with the iPhone 4S.

Product [iOS 5]

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