A few days ago, Jennifer Van Grove of Mashable wrote a piece quoting a notable AI expert, Gary Morgenthaler, in saying Apple has a two-year advantage over Google thanks to Siri.
Siri, the voice-command controlled virtual assistant featured on the new iPhone 4S, allows you to speak to your phone to send messages, schedule meetings, place calls, find local restaurants and all kinds of random stuff.
Morgenthaler says Siri "changed people's expectations of what's possible," adding that "Apple has crossed a threshold; people now expect that you should be able to expect to speak ordinary English -- and be understood. Siri has cracked the code."
Van Grove notes that Google has Voice Actions, a voice search application for Android. But Morgenthaler argues that Siri is semantically superior -- it has a more precise understanding of what you're saying and in what context.
I don't have Siri on my phone, but I've used it once, on my brother's phone. Telling Siri to set an alarm worked pretty well. What was frustrating was when it misunderstood a command and phoned someone instead.
Still, I think Siri is indeed the way of the future. Of course there are many improvements needed, but when Apple eventually collects enough data, Siri will be able to process voice commands better instead of replying with things like, “Sorry, I can't look for places in Canada.” Siri is definitely a great start for showing people how much more a mobile phone can do.
According to Van Grove, Google has been unimpressed with Siri, saying "your phone shouldn't be your assistant," but I think Google needs to catch up. Consumers are always looking for new features that can help them with their daily tasks. Once iPhone 4s users adapt to Siri, it will be harder to get them to switch over to a phone that doesn't have it.
Google has an enormous amount data that could easily help them defeat Apple in this space. They have all the locations mapped and probably can compute better answers to random questions users might have, drawing from data collected through their search engine.
The only question in my mind is: When will Google realize voice command technology is a game changer?