Siri gets smarter

Apple unveiled its upcoming iOS 12, the update for iPads and iPhones coming this fall, and what I found most interesting was some long overdue upgrades in Siri’s capabilities. You’ve probably noticed how when you get in your car, a message is often displayed on the lock screen anticipating where you’re going and telling you how long it’ll take to get there. Apple is now adding the ability for Siri to learn how you’re using apps, and to use that information to make suggestions. As Apple put it:

Siri can now intelligently pair your daily routines with third-party apps to suggest convenient shortcuts right when you need them.

You can also set up shortcuts, teaching Siri to perform a number of actions when a simple command is provided. When you’re heading home from work, a single command can adjust your home thermostat, tell you how long it’ll take to drive there, text your significant other that you’re on the way, and start playing your favorite podcast. There are other interesting examples in this article at TechCrunch, check it out if you’re curious.

iOS 12 should be available this fall, and will work on most devices (going all the way back to the iPhone 5S!)

A Smart Home can lead to increased energy usage

I’m in the process of making my home ‘smart’.  Which is a horrible, trendy marketing label that is completely inaccurate.  I mean, the home isn’t smart.  It’s just establishing connections between the home and a remote server, along with software to facilitate programming and interoperability.  But I digress.

I’ve noticed something fascinating as more devices in my home become connected and programmable.  Energy usage is increasing.  That floor lamp in the corner?  It was too much of a pain to walk over and turn it on, so the room was never well lit.  Now, Alexa turns that on when asked, and it’s also part of my routines for when I wake up, return home, etc.  Same thing applies to many of the lights in my home – normally it’d be too inconvenient to turn them on, and I’d just live in a house that was not lit up like Clark Griswold’s home at Christmas.  But now I have a choice.  Siri or Alexa take care of it for me, usually unprompted (yeah, I have to competing AIs in my life now…more on that later).

So, add in the increased energy usage, plus added energy required to produce a connected LED bulb instead of a standard one, and operational energy of the bulb’s connection and the AI hub communicating with me…and I’m not seeing a gain here.  But the geek side of me still loves it. 🙂

I’m still figuring out the best way to set up all this connectedness…the software is not as friendly as it needs to be, nor as complete.  I’ll delve into that in the near future as I figure this out.  For now, it’s time to say goodnight to Alexa and Siri.  And if you’re curious about Alexa…this scene from a recent episode of Mr. Robot did a cool job of showing how humans can find themselves interacting with this emerging technology:

Current state of computer voice recognition

Despite what you see in movies, the reality is that computer voice recognition still sucks.  There’s a great illustration of this in the following video…designer Michael Silber had Siri speak some text, and that was then sent to Google Voice, which transcribed it into text.  That text was fed back into Siri..and the process repeated.  It’s much like the ‘telephone’ game that kids play, and the results are similar…the message quickly degrades into gibberish.