After 2 years of slumming with the iPhone 3GS, I finally got an iPhone 4S. Much has been made about how the differences between the 4 and the 4S are fairly minor (although to a 3GS’er like myself, the form factor really is beautiful). But the big difference in Siri.
Siri is Apple’s new voice command application. Based on a DARPA-funded technology that Apple acquired, the power of Siri is in its ability to do context-specific voice processing. Ask “her” to remind you about something and she puts a note to pop up a reminder (including being smart enough to set a GPS-based trigger to remind you before you leave a location). You can ask to play a song by artist or title. You can even joke around with Siri (try searching for all of the funny things Siri says – they are hilarious!)
The technology also brings up interesting considerations in a themed environment. By nature, Siri is a personalized technology (in fact, too many people talking at once really confuses her). But can voice command, even in its most intelligent form, ever work in a themed environment? There are obviously a number of complications (languages, accents, the propensity for people to ask inappropriate questions). But there are obvious applications for it – interactions like Turtle Talk with Crush at Epcot are dependent on having a skilled actor behind the scenes who can make the experience real; automating it may lose some of that spontaneity but allow for more one-on-one experiences.
So yes, there are hurdles and the technology probably won’t be in your local theme park or museum tomorrow but the fact that Siri can process voice commands and respond in a meaningful fashion is a huge step forward. The day may soon come where you can visit a theme park and ask a computer-generated superhero, “Where’s the nearest bathroom?”