Next Time, Samuel L. Jackson Should Try Matzoh Balls

on May 23, 2012

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.