The New Power of Siri and Why It Matters

After the Apple WWDC keynote, I had a couple of reporters ask me if Apple’s new prowess with Siri was reactionary. They assume that, since Amazon, Google, and Microsoft have upped the intelligence of their AI voice assistants, Apple was forced to make Siri more competitive.

But to think Apple’s new and improved Siri is reactionary shows a lack of understanding of the actual AI-based engine Apple has and, more importantly, that Apple has been working on speech and voice AI solutions for decades. In fact, in 1992, I got involved with the earliest version of their voice technology research that was tied to an early AI and machine learning engine. Apple has been building on that technology and knowledge ever since.

Back in 1992, there were a lot of reasons for the lack of success with voice recognition and speech, mostly due to low-powered PC processors and minimal internal and external storage mediums. As well, that original work was targeted at the Newton and processing power in mobile was even worse. An interesting note is the lead engineer on this project in 1992 was Kaifu Lee, who Microsoft poached from Apple a year later. He kicked off their initial work in speech and voice AIs and then went on to run all of China for Microsoft until a few years ago.

However, Apple has had a major project going in this area since then and only in 2011 did Apple believe there was enough horsepower on the iPhone to deliver the first generation of Siri. Long time readers of my columns will remember that, when Siri came out, I wrote it would become the underlying data gathering engine for Apple and could be a threat to Google’s search at some point. To some degree, that has been true. As people used it, Siri gathered all types of data points and information from user queries and started building its own knowledge database tied to an already impressive database Apple had on their own servers.

Since then, Apple has been using new forms of AI and machine learning to expand that knowledge and tap into other data sources to give Siri a much larger base of info to pull from. However, because the processing power has increased along with the way Apple handles the queries, Siri has actually become smarter and smarter each year. However, watching the demos of this new version of Siri at WWDC, it became clear Siri’s contextual skills have increased as well.

Now you can ask unstructured questions and get answers back in a more contextual and conversational manner. This uses advanced machine learning and new AI techniques that give Siri much greater range and the ability to respond more accurately.

Indeed, this is the one major area where Google, Amazon, and Microsoft all have raised their own game by adding a much more conversational and contextual approach to their own AI voice assistants. This is the reason they are all spending billions on this as whoever has the best voice assistants that delivers the most accurate information in a conversational manner has the chance to not only expand their user base but make for even more loyal customers.

I suspect Apple will continue to enhance their AI and machine learning technology and possibly make more acquisitions that could increase Siri’s range and accuracy over time. But Apple has been doing AI-based research for a long time. It is part of their DNA. Expect that to continue well into the future and be used across all of Apple’s hardware, software, and services.

Published by

Tim Bajarin

Tim Bajarin is the President of Creative Strategies, Inc. He is recognized as one of the leading industry consultants, analysts and futurists covering the field of personal computers and consumer technology. Mr. Bajarin has been with Creative Strategies since 1981 and has served as a consultant to most of the leading hardware and software vendors in the industry including IBM, Apple, Xerox, Compaq, Dell, AT&T, Microsoft, Polaroid, Lotus, Epson, Toshiba and numerous others.

2 thoughts on “The New Power of Siri and Why It Matters”

  1. “only in 2011 did Apple believe there was enough horsepower on the iPhone to deliver the first generation of Siri.”

    I had Siri, before Apple bought it, on my 3GS. Apple then disabled it, and thus stole my app.

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