Siri screenshot

Next Time, Samuel L. Jackson Should Try Matzoh Balls

Apple is having some fun with a TV ad in which Samuel L. Jackson tells Siri to remind him to put the gazpacho on ice. Unfortunately, when others try to replicate the experience, Sire is going to leave them with hotspacho, because she can’t seem to get that reminder right.

The problem here would seem to be a breakdown in communications between the creative types at the ad agency and people who actually use Siri on iPhones. She has a lot of trouble with the word “gazpacho.” Even when I helped by giving the context of “Spanish restaurant,” Siri had a lot of trouble with the request:
Siri screenshot After I tried six or seven more times, she finally got it right. But when I asked Siri to rem,ind me to freeze the matzoh ball soup, she got it right the first time, with no trouble.

This little experiment mostly demonstrates the extreme sensitivity of speech systems to the language model they use. I suspect the Spanish-language version of Siri does a lot better with gazpacho, but maybe not so well with matzoh balls.

There are two lessons here. One is  that the product folks should really have a close look at the ads to make sure the claims hold up. (My guess is that this one slipped through because the creative team really, really wanted Jackson’s crack about hotspacho.) And we are still a long way from speech becoming a comprehensive, everyday alternative for text entry and navigation.



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Steve Wildstrom

Steve Wildstrom is veteran technology reporter, writer, and analyst based in the Washington, D.C. area. He created and wrote BusinessWeek’s Technology & You column for 15 years. Since leaving BusinessWeek in the fall of 2009, he has written his own blog, Wildstrom on Tech and has contributed to corporate blogs, including those of Cisco and AMD and also consults for major technology companies.

4 thoughts on “Next Time, Samuel L. Jackson Should Try Matzoh Balls”

  1. Aren’t the being sued over this? I heard that some guy who bought an iPhone 4S did so based on the ads and then sued them that Siri didn’t perform as promised, specifically citing examples from the ads that simply don’t work as portrayed. Saying “Siri doesn’t work like I wish it did” is a flimsy case, but to say “they showed an ad where Siri does X and I bought it and Siri does not do X” sounds pretty damning.

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