Yesterday, at its Worldwide Developer Conference, Apple announced that Siri is used on more than 375 million iOS devices each month and that she will get an update alongside the new iOS 11. Some updates are cosmetic. Siri now has three expressive voices and a male counterpart to her usual female persona. There also will be a visual interface similar to Google Assistant where users can text Siri queries and she will respond with multiple results to choose from.
Siri Adds Real-time Language Translation
Siri also appears to be getting smarter. In fact, she can now perform real-time translation of English into five different languages: Chinese, French, German, Italian and Spanish. In the demo, Siri was asked “How do you say what are the most popular dishes in your restaurant in Chinese?” Siri repeated the question, “What are the most popular dishes in your restaurant?” back audibly in Chinese.
Apple is also making her more pervasive throughout the phone, similar to Samsung’s Bixby. Siri will use on-device learning to determine what topics are relevant to the user and make suggestions through apps like Messages, Safari, Mail and News to predict what you like or would like to do next. These usage patterns will then be synced across all of the user’s iOS devices.
Has Apple Embraced Voice First Development? No.
Apple offered only minor updates to the SiriKit SDK, which offers third-party developers the ability to integrate Siri into their mobile apps. This looks like the clear direction. Trickle out more Siri features for mobile app developers, but limit the domains and don’t really encourage stand-alone third-party voice applications similar to Alexa skills or Google Actions. John Kelvie of Bespoken Tools has this to say:
I was very disappointed that we didn’t hear more about the Siri API. It doesn’t seem that Apple perceives Siri as part of a new AI-based operating system. Instead it seems like they see HomePod as a chance to sell more devices. There may be more to it. They didn’t say ‘We are not doing anything more with Siri.’ But they didn’t announce a unified bot platform across text and voice like Google.
Siri on iOS 11 looks like an improvement, but it will still be extremely limited compared to developing for Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant. With Apple, it appears to be more of the waiting game for a better Siri.