Apple has been at the forefront of computing technology for about 40 years; first by bringing computing to the masses with the original Apple I and II models, then point and click with the Mac (remember, it took Microsoft 10 years to bring out Windows ’95 to compete with the still languishing Mac OS), then touchscreen navigation with iPhone and iPad.
There’s the problem. There is no ‘next’ for computer navigation. Stylus? Please. Better keyboards? Nope. Navigating applications on a computer screen has hit a wall. The finger works, and the interface is far simpler and more usable than a command line interface or point and click, but what’s next is not so obvious.
You would be forgiven if you mentioned voice control because that technology, even in Siri’s limited capabilities, seems like a natural extension of how humans would, could, or should control a computer, whether desktop, notebook, tablet, or smartphone.
Humanity’s thought processes are to disconbobulated to make brain-wave or thought controlled interface useful, but voice control has promise. The promise, however, is more sizzle and show ‘n tell than it is a promise fulfilled.
I use ‘Hey Siri…’ on my iPhone regularly to check on this or that, set alarms, make queries here and there, but anything beyond that Siri chokes up with either too much detail (reading email, for example), or too little substance of value.
There’s also the issue of sound and its place in most cultures of the world. Our fingertip interaction with our iPhones and iPad is mostly silent. For the Mac or PC, the keyboard has an expected and acceptable sound when in use– unless you’re in a meeting, then the clatter is less welcome, to the point of intrusion and inappropriate. How much more so would Siri’s audio responses be in similar settings?
Worse, Siri isn’t really integrated into applications the way fingertips and touchscreen already are. That must change for Siri to become little more than a novelty with promise, and the promise seems ready to meet reality with growing competition from Amazon’s Echo and Alexa, and Google’s new-whatever-the-name-is voice controlled Google Home project.
The rumor mill says Apple plans a massive upgrade to Siri’s capabilities as an artificial intelligence starting with the Worldwide Developer’s Conference (WWDC 2016) next week. It’s about time. Siri’s voice recognition has improved remarkably in recent years, handling even my somewhat thick New York hispanic Scottish accent with ease.
What I want to see is more interaction with Siri, specifically to the application level. Obviously, that level requires Apple to open up Siri’s interface and make it work within 3rd party applications. That is what I expect to see Apple announce at WWDC 2016. What about a Siri box to rival Google Home or Amazon Echo? I already have a Siri box in my iPhone and iPad. Add it to the Mac and make it ‘always on’ on future devices, Apple, and we’re good to go.