Siri: Falling Behind but Poised for a Major Comeback

According to a recent report by The New York Times, Apple’s software chief Craig Federighi, and machine learning head John Giannandrea spent weeks testing ChatGPT last year. Their conclusions? Siri is lagging behind. Consequently, they decided that it was time for the 13-year-old voice assistant to undergo a significant overhaul.

With less than two weeks until the WWDC developer conference, tech journalist Mark Gurman has unveiled exciting updates about Siri’s AI-powered future. It appears that the often-criticized “dumb” voice assistant is finally set to receive a substantial upgrade.

The Bad News: Some Major Features Won’t Arrive This Year

Despite the promising developments, certain key features might not be available this year. Nonetheless, Gurman reports that Apple views iOS 18 as one of the most significant upgrades in its history. Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) 2024 will take place from June 10–14 at Apple Park, with the keynote address scheduled for 10 AM PT on June 10. You can stream it for free on Apple’s website, the Apple TV app, and the Apple Developer app. Stay tuned!

Long-Awaited “App Control” Capabilities

Reports indicate that with AI enhancements, Siri will gain more precise control over apps, enabling new functionalities. For example, Siri could move files between folders, open specific news articles, or even summarize articles for you. While Siri can already send texts and messages, the AI overhaul will allow it to analyze how people use their devices and learn more automated tasks. Apple plans to support “hundreds” of commands within its apps.

Current Siri Functionality

This sounds promising, but Gurman notes that initially, these features will be limited to Apple-developed apps and won’t be available until later updates to iOS 18, possibly next year. Additionally, these advanced local AI features might only be supported on newer models, such as the iPhone 15 Pro with the A17 Pro chip and Macs with M1 or later processors.

Initially, the new Siri might only understand and execute one command at a time. However, it could eventually handle a string of commands, such as generating a summary from a recorded meeting and emailing it to colleagues with a single voice command. The new Siri will likely feature a judgment system to determine whether AI tasks can be performed locally or need to be executed in the cloud based on computational requirements.

The Evolution of Siri: From Groundbreaking to Outdated

Reflecting on Siri’s 13-year journey, it’s clear that it started with a bang but has since stagnated. Introduced during the 2011 iPhone 4s launch, Siri wowed audiences by answering questions about the weather and stock performance and setting reminders with a single sentence. At the time, these capabilities were groundbreaking.

Fast forward 13 years, and those initial features remain some of Siri’s most frequently used functions. Despite added capabilities like home automation and shortcuts, Siri has yet to achieve a significant leap forward. Even when faced with competition from Google Assistant, Microsoft Cortana, Samsung Bixby, and Xiaomi’s Xiao Ai, Apple remained complacent until the advent of ChatGPT highlighted Siri’s shortcomings.

Apple often touts Siri improvements at its events, claiming better understanding and more functionality. However, understanding does not always translate to execution, and execution does not always equal excellence. For instance, telling Siri you want to take a selfie results in the camera opening to the front-facing mode, but you still need to tap the shutter. In contrast, Samsung’s Bixby automatically starts a countdown for a hands-free selfie experience.

Even though Apple’s default camera app includes a countdown feature, the overall user experience remains unpolished.

Siri vs. Shortcuts: A Case of Missed Potential

Have you ever used the “Shortcuts” feature? After acquiring Workflow, Apple integrated it into iOS 12 as “Shortcuts” and later brought it to macOS 12. This feature allows for advanced iOS functionality, such as one-tap clock-ins for work, converting Live Photos and videos to GIFs, and automating tasks like turning off alarms on holidays.

However, Shortcuts is not user-friendly for beginners. Creating a new shortcut involves selecting various action modules and linking them with logic statements like “if…then” and “as long as…then.” Complex shortcuts, such as holiday alarm automation, can easily go wrong even when following tutorials.

Though Apple provides a “Shortcuts Gallery” with ready-made scripts, these are often too simplistic to address specific user needs. Similar to Samsung’s “Good Lock” modules, Shortcuts offers powerful customization but comes with a high learning curve.

One of the strengths of AI is its natural language understanding and logical reasoning abilities. Ideally, a user could tell an AI, “I’m leaving work, clock me out,” and the AI would understand to execute the necessary steps, unlike Siri, which might not grasp the context.

Current Siri does have some capability in this regard. For example, asking Siri to remind you to buy a birthday cake when you leave the office was demonstrated at the iPhone 4s launch. This involves understanding user language and translating it into actionable tasks.

Siri function

The Promise of a More Proactive Siri

Beyond just understanding and executing commands, an AI-enhanced Siri should become a more proactive assistant. If you’ve used your iPhone long enough, you might notice it offering suggestions based on your habits. For example, it might suggest opening a music app when you connect your Bluetooth headphones or reducing charging speed overnight to preserve battery life based on your charging patterns.

 

These are the results of machine learning efforts that Apple has been integrating into its ecosystem. Imagine combining these capabilities with enhanced automation, where Siri truly becomes a personal assistant that anticipates your needs and handles tasks before you even ask.

For instance, Siri could automatically check the weather at your travel destination based on your flight itinerary, set alarms according to your travel schedule, book a ride, and even check you in for flights. Integrating these functionalities seamlessly will require cooperation between developers and Apple, but the rapid pace of AI development suggests that such a future may not be far off.

The Future of Siri and AI Integration

Although the new Siri’s intelligent operations will initially support only Apple’s applications, this is likely just the beginning. Apple’s ultimate goal could be a scenario where you wake up, say “Hey Siri,” and have it read out the latest articles from your favorite blog without you lifting a finger.

The potential for AI to understand and manipulate UI elements means that Siri could one day perform complex tasks across different applications autonomously. This vision aligns with efforts like Microsoft’s Copilot, which can guide users through tasks in real time by analyzing on-screen content and providing contextual assistance.

Moreover, AI hardware like Rabbit R1 demonstrates the potential for voice-driven, cross-platform operations. Though current iterations fall short of the ideal, the concept underscores a future where AI replaces manual interactions with seamless, voice-activated commands.

Apple, with its extensive developer network, could enhance Siri’s capabilities by providing APIs and SDKs that enable third-party apps to natively support AI-driven operations. This approach, combined with Apple’s consistent UI design standards, could make Siri more intuitive and powerful.

Conclusion

Siri may have fallen behind in recent years, but Apple is poised to bring it back into the spotlight with a major AI overhaul. As we approach WWDC 2024, there’s much anticipation for what the future holds for this iconic voice assistant. While some features may not arrive immediately, the planned updates promise to make Siri smarter, more capable, and more intuitive than ever before.

Stay tuned to HugTechs.com for the latest updates on this and other groundbreaking tech developments.

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