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October 4, 2011 1:17 PM   Subscribe

In 1987 Apple predicted a complex language voice assistant built into something called the Apple Knowledge Navigator, a tablet computer. With today's announcement of the refined (and integrated) version of Siri, it appears they were less than a month off.
posted by mrzarquon (405 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
Another, full page at Apple, on Siri.
posted by mrzarquon at 1:21 PM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Siri, can you sing me 'Daisy Bell'?"
posted by Capt. Renault at 1:22 PM on October 4, 2011 [15 favorites]




The rest of the presentation was pretty bland, but I really was rather impressed by Siri. That's going to be a gamechanger for voice input on phones.
posted by Artw at 1:25 PM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]




Not from 1987.
posted by unSane at 1:27 PM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


And shares slid... maybe investors got bored and stopped paying attention before they got to the good bit.
posted by Artw at 1:27 PM on October 4, 2011


why is Siri only available on the 4S? Isn't this a software thing?
posted by dpx.mfx at 1:28 PM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, wondering if it will work on my regular iphone 4.

Is the ios 5 even available for my phone or do they require the new hardware?
posted by babbyʼ); Drop table users; -- at 1:29 PM on October 4, 2011


Just talk to Siri as you would to a person

I don't think Siri will like that.
posted by Trurl at 1:29 PM on October 4, 2011 [13 favorites]


why is Siri only available on the 4S? Isn't this a software thing?

The 4S has a faster A5 dual core processor. Software can only do so much...
posted by PenDevil at 1:29 PM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Not from 1987.
Yeah, this has a colour LCD and mentions Yahoo!.

Is the ios 5 even available for my phone or do they require the new hardware?
iOS 5 is available for the iPhone 4 and 3GS. But just like iOS 4 on the 3G, not all features will be available without the new hardware.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 1:31 PM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


iOS 5 is for 3gs, iphone 4, ipad 1 and 2, ipod touches 3 and 4.

Guessing there isn't enough CPU in iPhone 4 for seamless integration.

The old version of Siri was all server side processed, your audio was uploaded to their servers to be processed, and then the results sent back to your phone. Great if you had signal, but couldn't then easily integrate with your local contacts on your phone. Apple is probably killing the servers in part because it doesn't want to have to maintain them anymore. This is taking what was a cloud rendered service running on some highend server architecture, and putting it into the phone directly.
posted by mrzarquon at 1:32 PM on October 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Fortunately, the bow tie did not survive the transition to reality.
posted by sonascope at 1:32 PM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


For some reason I am transfixed by this fictional story of the college professor.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 1:32 PM on October 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


With all the technological leaps in speech recognition, you'd think the speech synthesis would follow apace. Will we continue to make AI technology sound artificial on purpose?
posted by stroke_count at 1:32 PM on October 4, 2011


My understanding is that you have to long-press the home button in order for Siri to be activated. This is seriously cool voice recognition and some very impressive translation (from colloquial English to an answerable question or command), but the long-press still limits it on the phone end. And since it depends on a data connection for the actual speech recognition (similar to how Google translate works?) rather than doing it phone-side, network latency is also going to limit its usefulness. I love the technology, and we're so close to Star Trek levels of just saying "Computer, do X" that my skin... it tingles. Or am I misunderstanding the application? Does it stay receptive and responsive for as long as the app is open? It'll be neat to see the demos as they start coming out over the next few days.
posted by Osrinith at 1:34 PM on October 4, 2011


Oh please. Have me not all bought enough electronics to know that Siri will works about as well as whatever the last supposed game changer was? Here's a guarantee, at the next Iphone event, a new improved version of Siri will be introduced, and every sycophantic tech blogger on earth will race to say "ver. 2.0 fixes many of the problems users experienced with the first generation."
posted by Keith Talent at 1:34 PM on October 4, 2011 [18 favorites]


So, 24 years ago, Apple predicted a complex natural-language voice assistant built into a touchscreen Apple device, and was less than a month off.

More like a 20 months late. Apple bought Siri over a year ago, and the original App was in stores even before that, doing the exact same things, and for free, even on older iPhones. Apple shined it up, saw value in integration, and had a large war-chest for strategic acquisitions.
posted by 2bucksplus at 1:35 PM on October 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


> And since it depends on a data connection for the actual speech recognition (similar to how Google translate works?) rather than doing it phone-side, network latency is also going to limit its usefulness.

No, it appears all the data processing is being handled locally, not remotely. Which is kind of the big thing.
posted by mrzarquon at 1:36 PM on October 4, 2011


Edit: That's not to say Siri is bad necessarily, just that today's news shows that Apple is great at business and PR management, not necessarily voice-recognition and what we are calling A.I. for some reason.
posted by 2bucksplus at 1:37 PM on October 4, 2011


Oh, like, big whoop.
posted by hal9k at 1:37 PM on October 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


My first name is Siri, this is going to get really confusing.
posted by Maude_the_destroyer at 1:38 PM on October 4, 2011 [9 favorites]


I was doing this with my android phone the last time I was tripping!

"Google! Google! What does it mean to love? Google? When will the End come for me? Google. Google! Can we ever know peace? Is aggression hard-wired into human nature, and would it be even preferable to remove it? Google. Where can I can a cool taco. Google! Tacos? Google? I'm hungry"

Google actually went one better then Siri, because Google refused to answer me, lest I become too arrogant in my knowledge. Thank u google
posted by Greg Nog at 1:38 PM on October 4, 2011 [50 favorites]


I love the Siri app. It's a shame that I may not be able to use it anymore because I don't have the absolute latest iteration of their phone. Ugh. Please someone find information that it is just the os update.
posted by Phantomx at 1:38 PM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Siri, place an order for one of those new Amazon Kindle tablets."

"I don't understand what you mean, sir."

"Siri, I can't remember the name of it. It's a Kindle tablet that runs Android. Just order one."

"Do you mean an iPad, sir?"
posted by perhapses at 1:39 PM on October 4, 2011 [41 favorites]


Martin, you better watch out! I'm confident THIS technology will finally help me to remember to beat you up. My days of eating up Martha are behind me.
posted by aparrish at 1:40 PM on October 4, 2011 [16 favorites]


ver. 2.0 fixes many of the problems users experienced with the first generation
posted by CynicalKnight at 1:41 PM on October 4, 2011


Siri is iPhone 4s only feature.

Again: How old siri worked was the recorded audio was just uploaded to their servers to be processed, and then the results sent to your phone. The App was just an audio recorder plus upload/retrieval system.

New Siri: audio is processed on the phone, referencing things stored on the phone (ie, your contacts, your calendar, your playlists), querying the internet for things such as store reviews, wolfram alpha, wikipedia, etc.

I don't see apple delaying Siri this long "just to get integration working." They wanted it running local on the phone, since it is being used to replace the existing voice navigation / command system as well.
posted by mrzarquon at 1:42 PM on October 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Siri, install Swype please."

"I'm sorry Dave, I afraid I can't do that."
posted by kmz at 1:43 PM on October 4, 2011 [13 favorites]


ah, now it makes sense why apple went after samung's tablets and phones in court. they knew they didn't have anything special up their sleeves.
posted by canned polar bear at 1:44 PM on October 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


I love the Siri app.

Anybody have any tips or tricks on optimizing use with voice recognition software stuff?
posted by hal_c_on at 1:45 PM on October 4, 2011


Stay calm, speak slowly.
posted by gottabefunky at 1:46 PM on October 4, 2011


I'd be very surprised if it works as well as it does in that Apple video, but still, impressive.

The "voice search" feature on my Droid Incredible is about 1/4 of the way there, I'd say. Without the colloquialism.
posted by gottabefunky at 1:47 PM on October 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


How is this functionally different than google voice actions?
posted by lyam at 1:47 PM on October 4, 2011 [9 favorites]


How is this functionally different than google voice actions?

Because Apple bought it and rebranded it, and thus innovated it.
posted by kafziel at 1:50 PM on October 4, 2011 [27 favorites]


"Because I've GOT TO, MISTER!"
posted by theredpen at 1:51 PM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think the integrated Wolfram|Alpha functionality opens up the usefulness of it, like if I was working in a meth lab I could just speak into my phone "how many grams is 4.73 mmol of phenylpropanolamine" and get an instant answer. Jesse Pinkman's getting a new iPhone for sure.
posted by naju at 1:52 PM on October 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


How is this functionally different than google voice actions?

Apple added Clippy to it?
posted by yeolcoatl at 1:53 PM on October 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


In short: it is way, way more intelligent about what you are asking.

Google Voice actions are just basic commands. "Go to *website name*"
This was pretty much in iOS 4 as well.

Siri is "what is the closest chinese restaurant"
posted by mrzarquon at 1:53 PM on October 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


Note that there's no dichotomy between doing voice processing on servers and referencing local contacts. First, the contacts are all syncing to the cloud now. Second, they could use a hybrid approach which parses audio server-side and then does reference matching on the phone.
posted by GuyZero at 1:55 PM on October 4, 2011


I sure won't use this feature - I don't even like talking ON the phone, nevermind TO the phone - but it is tremendously cool technology if it works as promised. Real scifi stuff.
posted by blaneyphoto at 1:56 PM on October 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


Just jumping on the "not from 1987" bandwagon - there are several real pieces of early to mid 90s apple computer hardware in that video toward the end...
posted by stenseng at 1:57 PM on October 4, 2011


When they get the computer to talk back to me in Majel Barrett-Roddenberry's voice, I am so there.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:57 PM on October 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


"Siri, find instances of "Martha" on this page."

One instance found.

"EX-CELLENT."
posted by entropicamericana at 1:58 PM on October 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


I wonder how well this will work in the real world of background noise and accents. I've been playing with voice-activated devices since a "voice-dialing" telephone I bought from DAK in the 80's. All of them have been really cool - the one time in five it actually understands you. Otherwise, it's an exercise in aggravation.

"Call Paul"
Dialing Mall.
"Cancel! Call Paul"
Dialing Wallgreens
"Cancel! aargh!"
Dialing 911
posted by bitmage at 1:58 PM on October 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


Just jumping on the "not from 1987" bandwagon - there are several real pieces of early to mid 90s apple computer hardware in that video toward the end...

The secret feature they're not letting out of the bag yet is iTimeTravel.
posted by kmz at 1:59 PM on October 4, 2011


I like the Siri app and the integration is pretty slick, but it's not enough to upgrade my iPhone 4. But my iPhone 5 next year? Gonna be sweet.
posted by eyeballkid at 1:59 PM on October 4, 2011




Siri, describe in single words only the good things that come into your mind about... your mother.





I'm working on that.....


My mother? I'll tell you about my mother.
posted by Happy Dave at 2:00 PM on October 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


Actually I think Apple just wanted to launch an application where the video promotion would tally perfectly with the prolonged intro to Ray Charles' "What'd I Say?".
posted by rongorongo at 2:01 PM on October 4, 2011




Being able to say to your phone "Remind me to call Alice when I leave work" and it actually work, seems pretty futuristic. Apple's has had a great recent history of software integration, so it might be the start of a pretty cool new way of working with our technology.

I presume this will be mostly used by the bluetooth headset crowd at first, wandering down the street, or being in your car and saying "Is Apple's stock price down today?" or "Do I need my umbrella tomorrow?" would be pretty amazing really.
posted by Static Vagabond at 2:01 PM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hey, I wrote this post. The video was absolutely made in 1987. The rest of the video is newer, probably around 1995, but the Knowledge Navigator bit was produced in 1987 for Sculley's EDUCOM keynote. Here's the story from someone who worked on the video.
posted by waxpancake at 2:01 PM on October 4, 2011 [15 favorites]


The secret feature they're not letting out of the bag yet is iTimeTravel.

They're finally getting iPhoneBooth out of alpha? Excellent!!!
posted by stenseng at 2:03 PM on October 4, 2011


Being able to say to your phone "Remind me to call Alice when I leave work" and it actually work, seems pretty futuristic.

Yes. The geofencing and location aware tasks in iOS5 are pretty cool (even if there were apps that already did sort of the same thing.)
posted by eyeballkid at 2:03 PM on October 4, 2011


So, iPhone 5 sometime in April with a discounted trade-up program for 4S contract holders? Or are they going to delay until next October for the 5?
posted by Horselover Phattie at 2:06 PM on October 4, 2011


What I am also hoping for is Siri has API tie in's, I'd rather have it schedule omnifocus for me than Apple's reminder system, etc.

(Hi andy, thanks for an awesome find!)
posted by mrzarquon at 2:06 PM on October 4, 2011


Being able to say to your phone "Remind me to call Alice when I leave work" and it actually work, seems pretty futuristic.

The part where it falls down tends to be on the "Alice" part. Searching against your whole address book, there tends to be a lot of ambiguity and wrong choices.

Also that generally it handles exact phrases, so if you don't remember them, it just ignores you.
posted by smackfu at 2:07 PM on October 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


> So, iPhone 5 sometime in April with a discounted trade-up program for 4S contract holders? Or are they going to delay until next October for the 5?

Or you can get AppleCare+, which covers accidental damage and see if they will let you get an iPhone 5.
posted by mrzarquon at 2:07 PM on October 4, 2011


Voice recognition makes for fun tech demonstrations but how often is it really going to be faster and easier than just typing what you want?
posted by octothorpe at 2:09 PM on October 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


Also that generally it handles exact phrases, so if you don't remember them, it just ignores you.

I already got a spouse, not the damn phone ignores me?!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:09 PM on October 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


> how often is it really going to be faster and easier than just typing what you want?

When you are driving, running, or don't have your hands free.

Exactly the instances where Apple showed the use of the device.
posted by mrzarquon at 2:10 PM on October 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Apple added Clippy to it?

Heh. It is indeed the software agent concept, in a form that people seem less likely to throw bricks at.
posted by Artw at 2:10 PM on October 4, 2011


Voice recognition makes for fun tech demonstrations but how often is it really going to be faster and easier than just typing what you want?


If it really works as advertised, this is gonna be a *real big thing* for blind and visually/physically impaired users. Iphones are already pretty much the most accessible devices out of the box for the blind and visually impaired.
posted by stenseng at 2:11 PM on October 4, 2011 [8 favorites]


The USB adaptor is a nice development.
posted by Trurl at 2:11 PM on October 4, 2011


Or you can get AppleCare+, which covers accidental damage and see if they will let you get an iPhone 5.

No, they keep stockpiles of refurbished models - if you come in with a warranty claim, they'll just give you the same model.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 2:12 PM on October 4, 2011


Wasn't this already available on Android ?
posted by Ad hominem at 2:13 PM on October 4, 2011


Or you can get AppleCare+, which covers accidental damage and see if they will let you get an iPhone 5.


Seems unlikely. When the iphone 5 comes out they will still have plenty of the 4 and 4S (for warranty replacements at the very least).
posted by babbyʼ); Drop table users; -- at 2:14 PM on October 4, 2011


Ok, one of Apple's use cases:

"Do I need an umbrella?"

Not "what is the weather in Portland Oregon right now" (the usual voice command system prompt). Not even "is it raining".
posted by mrzarquon at 2:15 PM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


And who wouldn’t be happy to see your face?

Everyone, because the lens on the front facing camera is so fucking wide it makes my forehead look like Elizabeth I.
posted by nathancaswell at 2:15 PM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


> Wasn't this already available on Android ?

The Android voice recognition is pretty good, actually, but it seems Siri will integrate much better across all of the iPhone's functions and offer a bit more granularity in control. I don't think it's much more than an incremental improvement, but its execution seems promising.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 2:15 PM on October 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Seriously, check out the list of the type of situations Apple is selling the product for, it's not just "main screen turn on."
posted by mrzarquon at 2:16 PM on October 4, 2011


Or you can get AppleCare+, which covers accidental damage and see if they will let you get an iPhone 5.

Uh, wouldn't it sorta be fraud to purposely damage something to get the warranty replacement?
posted by kmz at 2:17 PM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was joking about the AppleCare+ thing, it was more a "wow, and apple is also doing this now" which is the first time they have ever offered to cover accidental damage, on any of their products under AppleCare.
posted by mrzarquon at 2:18 PM on October 4, 2011


The best way to predict the future is to invent it.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 2:18 PM on October 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


The Android voice recognition is pretty good, actually

I've tried "Call [name]" a few times, and it's always been terrible. Worse yet, neither mr. epersonae nor I can get our phones to recognize each other's names.

HI PHONE PLEASE CALL [name]: THE PERSON I CALL EVERY DAY. SOMETIMES MORE THAN ONCE. DO YOU NOT KNOW WHO THEY ARE BY NOW? NO I DO NOT WANT TO CALL A RANDOM DENTIST.

Sorry, it's just frustrating.
posted by epersonae at 2:21 PM on October 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Siri. Tea, Earl Grey, Hot.
posted by Ad hominem at 2:22 PM on October 4, 2011 [18 favorites]


Hopefully this will work better than the current iPhone voice recognition, which is terrible. It messes up the verbs half the time, so instead of "Play" it hears "Call" and I have to scramble to cancel before it calls my boss at midnight.
posted by smackfu at 2:22 PM on October 4, 2011


> Sorry, it's just frustrating.

A lot of that depends on the device as well, so it's not always a linear comparison between iOS and Android.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 2:23 PM on October 4, 2011


It messes up the verbs half the time, so instead of "Play" it hears "Call" and I have to scramble to cancel before it calls my boss at midnight.

Easy solution: delete all your Springsteen songs.
posted by nathancaswell at 2:23 PM on October 4, 2011 [24 favorites]


I'd imagine the first reviews of Siri on the iPhone 4s are going to be around the lines of "this isn't the voice commands as you are used to."
posted by mrzarquon at 2:23 PM on October 4, 2011


Oh, like, big whoop.
posted by hal9k at 1:37 PM on October 4 [+] [!]


I see what you did there, Hal.
posted by chavenet at 2:24 PM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


This totally reminds me of Captain Picard on Star Trek TNG, where he's always asking the invisible omniscient "Computah" questions. "Computah, what is the star date?" "Computah, locate Mr. Worf." "Computah, scan the other vessel." "Computah, initiate the self-destruct sequence."

Ooooh, will there be a self-destruct sequence on the new iPhone?
posted by jabberjaw at 2:24 PM on October 4, 2011


I'd imagine the first reviews of Siri on the iPhone 4s are going to be around the lines of "this isn't the voice commands as you are used to."

In that case they should compose their reviews using voice recognition and not edit it at all after the fact.
posted by nathancaswell at 2:25 PM on October 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


For the vision impaired, this is Hply Sjot.
posted by seanmpuckett at 2:26 PM on October 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


> using voice recognition and not edit it at all after the fact.

Then that will be the review of Nuance, not of Siri.
posted by mrzarquon at 2:29 PM on October 4, 2011


If passable voice recognition really catches on, it would be interesting to see if it has a normalising effect on people's everyday accents and enunciation.
posted by lucidium at 2:30 PM on October 4, 2011 [6 favorites]


Also: Siri is in English, French, and German.

Google Voice Actions only work if you set your language to English (I don't know if that means you can still use German words, or that it only recognizes English).
posted by mrzarquon at 2:35 PM on October 4, 2011


the joke goes like this (with names changed, put in your local radio shock jock).

A caller rings into the Hugh Geego (name faked, put in your local radio shock jock) show, a ‘shock jock’ on a local radio station, while they were doing a segment on new technology.
Caller: I just thought I would let you know about some really neat technology in a new car I just bought.
Hugh: OK I heard they had some pretty smart stuff these days.
Caller: Well one of the main reasons I bought it was it has this amazing ‘voice activated speech recognition’ thingy where you can just tell the car what to do.
Hugh: Sounds good – give me some examples.
Caller: So I was driving to work this morning and thought I would try it out, so I said “open the sun roof” and sure enough it opened. Then I said “set climate control to 20 degrees” and it turned the air-con on for me.
Hugh: That’s amazing
Caller: There’s more; I said “turn radio on” and it asked me back “what do you want to listen to”. So I said “classical music” and it put on Classic FM. Then I tried “heavy rock” and it put on Triple M. A moment after that, some fool came speeding around the corner and crossed over onto my side of the road. As I nearly hit him, I shouted out “stupid mindless bloody idiot”, and guess what?
Hugh: What?
Caller: It put on your show!
posted by DreamerFi at 2:38 PM on October 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


My car's GPS system only understands me at all if I do a fake american accent instead of my normal BBC english. I'm assuming that Siri will require similar pandering.
posted by w0mbat at 2:39 PM on October 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


And shares slid... maybe investors got bored and stopped paying attention before they got to the good bit.

Still waiting ... honestly doesn't seem much different than Google voice actions.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:39 PM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


How is this functionally different than google voice actions?

Because Apple bought it and rebranded it, and thus innovated it.


Neither you no I have used this technology yet, but no one has been getting rich the past decade with the "this [desktop unix OS/MP3 player/smartphone/ultracompact laptop/tablet/HTPC/etc] concept has long predated Apple's newly introduced and hyped, similar but more polished version"

Apple has taken fringe technologies and turned them mainstream overnight, again and again and again. The snark seems a little misplaced
posted by crayz at 2:43 PM on October 4, 2011 [11 favorites]


I only followed the Engadget liveblog so I'm sure I'm missing something here. But what I really want to know is how it took the command "remind me to call my wife when I leave work" and translated [my wife] to [Molly], as well as (presumably) knowing what time the [leaving work] event occurs. How much personal metadata does Siri have access to, and how much manual work is required to populate it to that point of usefulness?

The caption in the liveblog says there was a "geofence... around work" which suggests [leaving work] isn't a calendar item, but an event that's fired whenever the device leaves a certain GPS coordinate radius. That's pretty cool in a different sort of way than I first thought, but again: How do you inform it where "work" is?

How extensible is this thing, anyway? They showed a list of acceptable command families at the presentation but it really gets interesting if you can script your own. I really doubt Apple's going to go there though. Maybe add-on command packs in the App Store?
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 2:45 PM on October 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


Artw: "And shares slid... maybe investors got bored and stopped paying attention before they got to the good bit."

Buy the rumor, sell the news. Isn't a stock slide on the day of an announcement par for the course with Apple?
posted by mullingitover at 2:48 PM on October 4, 2011


Voice recognition makes for fun tech demonstrations but how often is it really going to be faster and easier than just typing what you want?

I use Google Voice Search all the time with my Android phone. It's fantastic for simple things, much faster than navigating the UI with fingers:

"Set alarm seven a m"
"Set timer ten minutes"
"Call [person]"
"text [person] running late be there at six"

Hopefully Apple's interest in this means that we're going to get an arms race between Apple and Google for better voice recognition interfaces.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 2:49 PM on October 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


Apple has taken fringe technologies and turned them mainstream overnight, again and again and again. The snark seems a little misplaced

Apple takes old technology, slaps a white shell on it, and pretends that it has discovered the new greatest thing ever. Oh, and it does it so frequently that you're in perpetual upgrade hell. I think for a certain segment of the gadget-buying population, snark seems perfectly acceptable for the exact reason you mention. ;)
posted by jess at 2:50 PM on October 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


Wow, only a couple years after android!
posted by delmoi at 2:50 PM on October 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


> Buy the rumor, sell the news. Isn't a stock slide on the day of an announcement par for the course with Apple?

Also, while the new camera, CPU, OS updates and voice recognition are neat, they probably aren't going to make nearly as many people rip their clothes, chuck their current smartphones in the gutter, and rush to stand in line like an honest-to-goodness brand new shiny (ie. #5).
posted by Horselover Phattie at 2:52 PM on October 4, 2011


Apple has taken fringe technologies and turned them mainstream overnight, again and again and again. The snark seems a little misplaced

No, it's entirely well-placed. The iPhone 4S announcement has, for the first time in Apple's history, been predominantly "me-too" features.

new alerts? Android.
voice actions? Android.
dual-core processor? heck, the iPad. And various Android phones.
iCloud? Android.
A better camera? well, I'll admit it's probably a better camera than any other phone out there, but it's incremental really.

Now, to be "fair and balanced" Apple's implementations of all these things is very good and better than most Android phones' implementations. But these were very much catch-up features. It will be interesting to see if they can pull anything truly new out for the iPhone 5.
posted by GuyZero at 2:55 PM on October 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


Oh, and it does it so frequently that you're in perpetual upgrade hell.

That iOS 5 is going to be available for the 3GS is probably one of the most impressive displays of upgraded consumer technology ever. Heaven knows updating Android on older phones has been like getting blood from a stone.
posted by GuyZero at 2:56 PM on October 4, 2011 [7 favorites]


Wow, only a couple years after android!

Wow, your comment's only a couple of hours after several people have pointed out the difference between Siri and Google's voice commands!
posted by grubi at 2:56 PM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


> Heaven knows updating Android on older phones has been like getting blood from a stone.

Let alone the fact that everyone iPhone customer gets the iOS 4.0 update on Oct 14th.

Regardless of which carrier you have and who paid the subsidy for your phone.
posted by mrzarquon at 2:57 PM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Will it open the pod bay doors?
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 2:57 PM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, while the new camera, CPU, OS updates and voice recognition are neat, they probably aren't going to make nearly as many people rip their clothes, chuck their current smartphones in the gutter, and rush to stand in line like an honest-to-goodness brand new shiny (ie. #5).

Yeah, you can pretty much imagine the sinking feeling tech journalists who'd just sat through the never-ending self-congratulatory preamble and rehash of iOS 5 experience at that.

TBH I'd also take anyone rushing out to trade in their iPhone4 for the new one as a sign of having more money than sense... unless you needed it for the Siri integration, because that really is some cool shit.

(And what are people expecting from the iPhone 5? That it be made of solid cocaine?)
posted by Artw at 2:58 PM on October 4, 2011


GuyZero: "That iOS 5 is going to be available for the 3GS is probably one of the most impressive displays of upgraded consumer technology ever. Heaven knows updating Android on older phones has been like getting blood from a stone."

One of the major reasons I'm chucking my android phone ASAP and never going back. My phone is less than a year old and I'm never going to get another update again without a bunch of warranty-voiding hackery. Google shit the bed on this one.
posted by mullingitover at 2:58 PM on October 4, 2011 [7 favorites]


One of the major reasons I'm chucking my android phone ASAP and never going back. My phone is less than a year old and I'm never going to get another update again without a bunch of warranty-voiding hackery. Google shit the bed on this one.

B-B-But it's OPEN!
posted by entropicamericana at 2:59 PM on October 4, 2011


/has the 3G no S. Fuckers.
posted by Artw at 3:00 PM on October 4, 2011


Let alone the fact that everyone iPhone customer gets the iOS 4.0 update on Oct 14th.

Why would I downgrade my phone to iOS 4 two days after I've upgraded it to iOS 5? Do you know something we don't? Oh my god is it going to suck??
posted by eyeballkid at 3:00 PM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


That iOS 5 is going to be available for the 3GS is probably one of the most impressive displays of upgraded consumer technology ever.

Hopefully it works out better for 3GS users than iOS4 did for 3G users.
posted by kmz at 3:00 PM on October 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


Also, while the new camera, CPU, OS updates and voice recognition are neat, they probably aren't going to make nearly as many people rip their clothes, chuck their current smartphones in the gutter, and rush to stand in line like an honest-to-goodness brand new shiny

I agree and making it 4S only may be a marketing ploy rather than based on any underlying hardware rationale

That said, Apple doesn't just go around talking up bullshit to win a news cycle. The prominence they've given this tech suggests they think it's a big part of future human/computer interaction, and whether they "get it right" this time or need a MobileMe/iCloud like do-over, they're absolutely putting their credibility on the line that they can make this work. For a technology like this the difference between working 90% of the time and 98% of the time is just enormous

All the people saying "there's Android phones w/ dual cores too" etc ... I mean really? If you think Apple has become the most valuable company in the world by slapping white plastic on others innovations, please go out and search for a clue
posted by crayz at 3:00 PM on October 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


Siri, set phases on stun.
Siri, set course for Rigel IV, warp factor 5.
Siri, engage!

Nope, still not working properly yet.
posted by blue_beetle at 3:01 PM on October 4, 2011


Google just hands the OS off to hardware partners who are in charge of the upgrades. Or, more accurately, they really just verify compatibility of the partners' ports. It's really the OEMs' issue.
posted by GuyZero at 3:01 PM on October 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


That said, Apple doesn't just go around talking up bullshit to win a news cycle.

TBH cool though this is i think Amazon outdid them last week.
posted by Artw at 3:02 PM on October 4, 2011


Man, I wish people could talk about gadgets without getting religious or doleful.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 3:03 PM on October 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


/has the 3G no S. Fuckers.

Art, it's time to upgrade. Seriously. I jumped from what you have to the 4 and now even picking up a 3Gs feels wrong. The form factor is smooth and thick and wrong!
posted by cjorgensen at 3:04 PM on October 4, 2011


My phone is less than a year old and I'm never going to get another update again without a bunch of warranty-voiding hackery.

BTW, what phone?
posted by GuyZero at 3:04 PM on October 4, 2011


Diane...
posted by griphus at 3:05 PM on October 4, 2011 [7 favorites]


I'm glad the iPhone finally now has a 64 gig version. 32 gigs feels so small now.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:05 PM on October 4, 2011


GuyZero: "Google just hands the OS off to hardware partners who are in charge of the upgrades. Or, more accurately, they really just verify compatibility of the partners' ports. It's really the OEMs' issue"

Google signed off on the OEM phones, their name is all over them. They could've demanded the phones fit a spec that allowed for day-and-date upgradeability before they certified them, but they chose not to. I'm not letting them off the hook that easy.
posted by mullingitover at 3:06 PM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Art, it's time to upgrade. Seriously. I jumped from what you have to the 4 and now even picking up a 3Gs feels wrong. The form factor is smooth and thick and wrong!

Meh. Forced upgrade cycles for phones are ridiculous.
posted by Artw at 3:06 PM on October 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


With all the technological leaps in speech recognition, you'd think the speech synthesis would follow apace. Will we continue to make AI technology sound artificial on purpose?
Speech synthesis has been around for decades. It was a feature on the original macs, actually.
Siri is "what is the closest chinese restaurant"
I have literally the oldest Android phone ever made, the G1 running android 1.6. It has a "google voice search" that lets me search via voice. It works just fine. I can do voice search in the maps app and other places as well.
Buy the rumor, sell the news. Isn't a stock slide on the day of an announcement par for the course with Apple?
The entire market was pretty bad today, but it underperformed google/Microsoft and the Nasdaq. I think people might have been expecting an iPhone 5.
posted by delmoi at 3:08 PM on October 4, 2011


Man, I wish people could talk about gadgets without getting religious or doleful.

As a member of the Orthodox Church of Tech, I am by inclination and obligation both religious and doleful when discussing gadgets.
posted by cortex at 3:09 PM on October 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


TBH cool though this is i think Amazon outdid them last week.

They're very different products. Honestly I think the computing world is going start getting pretty nuts, pretty soon. The baseline computing needs of your average joe basically flatlined around something like a 2004 desktop PC, and so since then instead of getting faster computers have mainly been getting smaller and cheaper, to the point where you can get early-2000s desktop performance (& better in some cases that matter, e.g. HD video) out of a $25 USB stick PC

So this hardware is going to start getting into everything as its price asymptotes towards free, and companies like Apple and Amazon and Google are racing to own the software that runs ... reality
posted by crayz at 3:10 PM on October 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


They could've demanded the phones fit a spec that allowed for day-and-date upgradeability before they certified them, but they chose not to.

You can't make a million friends (a day) without making a few enemies.

Or was that a different company?
posted by GuyZero at 3:13 PM on October 4, 2011


Amazon outdid them last week

Leaked screenshots of the an internal Amazon tool show 2k Kindle Fire pre-orders per hour. Should be getting my $79 cheapo kindle tomorrow!
posted by Ad hominem at 3:14 PM on October 4, 2011


They're very different products.

Different products, sure... but as bog presentational events go, Microsoft and Amazon have done better lately - both in terms of products to show and the actual presentation. Apple really does seem to tak it's audience for granted there, expecting everyone to ooh and ah through the latest account of their brilliance and get super excited about some incremental changes.
posted by Artw at 3:15 PM on October 4, 2011


Google Voice Search is available on iOS too, delmoi. It's pretty cool, but Siri takes it to a whole new level. I'm sorry you're so blinded by your hate-on for Apple that you can't see the difference.
posted by entropicamericana at 3:16 PM on October 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


I wonder if the 4S having the same exterior appearance as the 4 will make it more or less prone to theft. Walking around with a new model iPhone is like putting a target on your forehead. I'd like to get something newer than my 3GS but I'm also not thrilled about keeping it hidden in public places.
posted by The Lamplighter at 3:18 PM on October 4, 2011


It certainly makes it more prone to using all the same accessories.
posted by GuyZero at 3:19 PM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Apparently Apple would've been a lot better off releasing an iPhone 5 today. Only 11% of iPhone and android users said they'd upgrade to a 4S, but 51% of iPhone owners and 27% of android owners would've gone for a 5.
posted by mullingitover at 3:20 PM on October 4, 2011


> I have literally the oldest Android phone ever made, the G1 running android 1.6. It has a "google voice search" that lets me search via voice. It works just fine. I can do voice search in the maps app and other places as well.

The innovative part of Siri is it can infer context from what you ask it, not where you are using it in the application interface.

I mentioned this before, but one of Apple's demo is:

Do I need an umbrella?

That is the entire prompt. That is how you can think of using it, ask it natural questions, not "what is todays forecast for Portland."

This is something Siri was good at doing last time, but it was slow since it was their servers processing the audio (as does Google's). I am still convinced this is all done on the phone, locally, and that is why it is the 4S only feature. This is also why the Voice Search works on a G1 1.6, it just has to upload the raw audio to Google's servers and show you the result.
posted by mrzarquon at 3:21 PM on October 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


Does make you wonder if they could have gotten away with calling it a 5.
posted by Artw at 3:21 PM on October 4, 2011


mrzarquon: "Ok, one of Apple's use cases:

"Do I need an umbrella?"

Not "what is the weather in Portland Oregon right now" (the usual voice command system prompt). Not even "is it raining".
"

I've literally thought about implementing this exact feature myself. Whether it's currently raining or not is an easy observation I don't need a smartphone for. What I want to know is whether, in the hours I will be out and about, if I need a coat / umbrella. I live in Kansas and the weather can change rapidly if a stormfront moves though, so a standard "high/lo" sunny/rainy/snow may not be sufficient to capture the nuance.
posted by pwnguin at 3:21 PM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


> It certainly makes it more prone to using all the same accessories.

Speaking of which, that bit about Apple recognizing all the aftermarket watchbands for the Nano probably means that they'll be muscling out those people.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 3:22 PM on October 4, 2011


Yes, but they're not vaguely 'open', so they're AWFUL.
posted by grubi at 3:22 PM on October 4, 2011


The watchbands?
posted by Horselover Phattie at 3:26 PM on October 4, 2011


> Does make you wonder if they could have gotten away with calling it a 5.

I think they could have, but that would require breaking their tradition of new numbers mean new cases:

iPhone
iPhone 3G (new feature, new case, refinement once they got feedback on former skunkworks project)
iPhone 3Gs (faster, same case)
iPhone 4 (faster, new case)
iPhone 4s (faster, fixed antenna)

iPhone 3Gs still sold pretty damn well for just a speed boost (and is still being sold, and is now free w/ subsidy). Just because folks with current iPhone4s aren't going to dump them doesn't mean folks with 3Gs or 3G wont hop on for one.

Also, at this rate, the iPhone 4s will be the free with subsidey phone in two years.
posted by mrzarquon at 3:28 PM on October 4, 2011


Has anyone mentioned that Siri's technology was originally funded by a grant from DARPA? How cool/terrifying is that?
posted by running order squabble fest at 3:29 PM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


So what next? Is Apple going to sue Alexander Graham Bell for infringing its patents on the telephone or the rest of us for speaking English when not talking into an IPhone?
posted by joannemullen at 3:29 PM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


> How cool/terrifying is that?

About the same as the feeling I get from using TCP/IP.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 3:31 PM on October 4, 2011 [10 favorites]


The cool thing about this iPhone 4S Championship Edition is that you can play as Dictator, Claw, Boxer or Sagat.
posted by neuromodulator at 3:32 PM on October 4, 2011 [6 favorites]


Yes, but they're not vaguely 'open', so they're AWFUL.

I think the open-source elements of Android are important, but this constant mocking of an argument that isn't being made is tiresome. No one actually believes that Android is somehow intrinsically superior because AOSP exists.
posted by GuyZero at 3:34 PM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


About the same as the feeling I get from using TCP/IP.

Now, to be fair, TCP/IP is both cool and terrifying. Although it would be cooler is it used token passing. Useless, but cooler.
posted by GuyZero at 3:35 PM on October 4, 2011


But how will this impact Smurfs' Village?!
posted by mazola at 3:37 PM on October 4, 2011


Edwin has always been better than Google Voice Actions, on Android. If these promo videos are accurate, it's not really competition for Siri... but it's more representative of the best of Android natural-ish voice recognition app, and made the blog circuit more than a year ago. (There are other, more up-to-date videos and article of it, but this is the one that started the buzz, back then.)
posted by gilrain at 3:38 PM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


The cool thing about this iPhone 4S Championship Edition is that you can play as Dictator, Claw, Boxer or Sagat.

I'm waiting til they nerf Dark Phoenix.
posted by kmz at 3:38 PM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


No one actually believes that Android is somehow intrinsically superior because AOSP exists.

Then you're not reading people's comments online. There are people making *precisely* this argument.
posted by grubi at 3:39 PM on October 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


There are people making precisely that assertion. It's hardly an argument.
posted by GuyZero at 3:40 PM on October 4, 2011


(I used Edwin for a while, and it was neat and surprisingly accurate, natural, much smoother than other voice experiences I'd had before. It was GPS aware, able to translate between languages on request. "Translate 'where is the bathroom' to Spanish," etc. "Where is the nearest pizza place." It all worked pretty well. And still, after a few weeks, I just never used it. I sort of expect the same of Siri, but hopefully not!)
posted by gilrain at 3:41 PM on October 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


You said no one actually believes it. I'm pointing out that there are some who do. Why quibble?
posted by grubi at 3:44 PM on October 4, 2011


Ok, no one here is making that argument. That zealots with a few loose screws exist isn't sufficient justification to bring their viewpoints into every discussion on a given topic.
posted by GuyZero at 3:47 PM on October 4, 2011


Unless you're doing it ironically, in which case I'm totally over that joke and some combination of a new, cooler joke and/or get off my lawn.
posted by GuyZero at 3:48 PM on October 4, 2011


I suspect the actual use of Siri to attempt to do complex, natural-language style things will fumble as badly as the Newton did.

For example, 'where is the nearest chinese restaurant' doesn't work for me with Google Maps; in fact, Google Maps is pretty awful at determining what I mean. Frequently I'll get nonsensical things like chinese restaurant supply companies or chinese language instruction. I can't imagine that Apple's data quality and prevalence is somehow higher than Google's.
posted by felix at 3:49 PM on October 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


I can't imagine that Apple's data quality and prevalence is somehow higher than Google's.

That may have to do with all the map data being Google's.
posted by GuyZero at 3:51 PM on October 4, 2011



I suspect the actual use of Siri to attempt to do complex, natural-language style things will fumble as badly as the Newton did.

For example, 'where is the nearest chinese restaurant' doesn't work for me with Google Maps; in fact, Google Maps is pretty awful at determining what I mean.


I just asked the free version of Siri, that was up on the App store until today (and I've been using it for exactly this for a while), "Where is the nearest Chinese restaurant."

It replied with the nearest Chinese restaurant. Siri is better than you believe if you've never used it.
posted by eyeballkid at 3:53 PM on October 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


Based on the dates mentioned in the Knowledge Navigator video, it takes place on September 16, 2011. The date on the professor's calendar is September 16, and he's looking for a 2006 paper written "about five years ago," setting the year as 2011.

I would like to think that the level of fact-checking someone would do before writing this sentence would extend to the same length my own did, of looking across the room and seeing that "Wednesday September 16th" does not appear on a 2011 calendar. But I guess saying they were off by two (2009) to four (2015) years is less dramatic than saying "OMG, off by only a month!!!111!!!".
posted by ricochet biscuit at 3:53 PM on October 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


Great.

How many years do I have left as a programmer before my phone can do my job?
posted by mmrtnt at 3:57 PM on October 4, 2011


Kearney:

Hey Dolph, take a memo on your iPhone. 'Beat up Martin.'

iPhone:
Eat up Martha.

posted by Sys Rq at 3:58 PM on October 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Ya know, the iPhone, even the new ones, is looking kinda ragged next to some of these sweet Droid phones. It has gotten so I is embarassed to pull mine out, I ususally walk away to use it so nobody sees it.
posted by Ad hominem at 3:59 PM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


D'oh!
posted by Sys Rq at 4:01 PM on October 4, 2011


I just said "nearest chinese restaurant" to my android phone and it gave me a list of nearby chinese restaurants. It has a map and a list of restaurants, each with a button with their phone number and a button that links to reviews. For some of the entries, it overlays a photo of the exterior of the restaurant over the bottom-left corner of the map as I scroll through the list. It also lets me manually specify a location if I don't want the phone to report my precise location.

Now, in fairness, all it did was recognize the words and funnel them to the regular mobile google search which does exactly the same thing if you type in "nearest chinese restaurant".

Seems to work OK for me.
posted by GuyZero at 4:01 PM on October 4, 2011 [6 favorites]


That is the entire prompt. That is how you can think of using it, ask it natural questions, not "what is todays forecast for Portland."

What I wonder is whether it actually parses the command, or if it just has a lot more command templates. Like there are probably only 20 ways to ask about the weather, and 20 other ways to make an appointment. If it handles those, you think "gee, it actually understands me!"
posted by smackfu at 4:02 PM on October 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Asking the free version of Siri:

* Chinese Restuarant
* Do I need an umbrella today?

I've also asked for it to make me reservations at the closest steak house around 8pm. This version does that with Open Table listed restaurants.
posted by eyeballkid at 4:04 PM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


What I want to know is whether, in the hours I will be out and about, if I need a coat / umbrella.

There's an app for that: Swackett
posted by smackfu at 4:04 PM on October 4, 2011


I get the same good results with my Droid X2's Voice Search for nearest Chinese restaurants that GuyZero does.
posted by bearwife at 4:05 PM on October 4, 2011


The Winsome Parker Lewis: "But what I really want to know is how it took the command "remind me to call my wife when I leave work" and translated [my wife] to [Molly], as well as (presumably) knowing what time the [leaving work] event occurs. How much personal metadata does Siri have access to, and how much manual work is required to populate it to that point of usefulness?

I don't know how this will work, but I can speculate. In the Mac's address book, you can edit your own entry to A) indicate "this is me, the machine's owner." You can add relations like wife, father, etc. You can add your work address. Siri is probably relying on you specifying who your relations are and having entries for them in your address book to address "my wife" correctly, and would be relying on your work address being in the address book for geo-fencing.

I've always tried to be careful and complete about metadata, but Apple hasn't exactly coaxed people in that direction. It might be time for them to start doing that.

How extensible is this thing, anyway? They showed a list of acceptable command families at the presentation but it really gets interesting if you can script your own. I really doubt Apple's going to go there though. Maybe add-on command packs in the App Store?"

Out of the box, independent developers can add Siri-based transcription to their apps. I'm not aware that they can add other commands to Siri's bag of tricks. iOS will need something akin to MacOS Services (which, interestingly, WinPhone also has), along with voice-commandable syntaxes, in order to make that work. Wait for iOS 5.5 or 6.0, maybe.
posted by adamrice at 4:06 PM on October 4, 2011


I just typed "nearest chinese restaurant" into google and it gave me Mr. Chows and The Grand Sichuan. Which I guess is ok, but I found strangely insulting. Like google recomended those places just to rub in the fact that it has more money than me.
posted by Ad hominem at 4:07 PM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


There's a bunch of umbrella apps for android too. So the real question is: Why does Apple hate the free market? (if we're going to bring up dumb arguments all the time). Is Tim Cook breaking away from Steve Jobs for... Hugo Chavez?????
posted by GuyZero at 4:07 PM on October 4, 2011


Siri, load up Celery Man.
posted by benzenedream at 4:08 PM on October 4, 2011 [10 favorites]


No one actually believes that Android is somehow intrinsically superior because AOSP exists.

Well, it depends on what you mean by 'superior'. My expectation is that Siri will probably work better than anything on Android. But it will only run on an iPhone 4. If you have ANYTHING else, even an earlier iPhone, then an open source solution is going to be better, because there's at least a chance you could get it running on your phone.

Siri is only superior if you buy new hardware. If you're willing to do that, it's probably a lot better. But considering that most phones cost about two thousand dollars, when you consider the cost of the contract you're entering into to get one 'for free', well.... that's a lot of goddamn money to spend on one application.

For people who don't believe in disposable hardware, open source is important. It lets you support a given device long after the manufacturer has lost interest and demanded you buy something new. If you're happy being told You Will Buy This New Hardware If You Want This New Software, then the AOSP is of zero use to you.
posted by Malor at 4:09 PM on October 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


"But what I really want to know is how it took the command "remind me to call my wife when I leave work" and translated [my wife] to [Molly], as well as (presumably) knowing what time the [leaving work] event occurs.

In the demo, the chap says that Siri established who his wife was in a previous conversation. So maybe he mentioned 'wife' previously and Siri asked him who that was? Siri is designed to be conversational, apparently, so that could be how it works.

Note also the 'leaving work' thing is not about a time - its about the phone detecting when he leaves a certain geographical area. I think thats part of the iOS 5 location stuff.
posted by memebake at 4:09 PM on October 4, 2011


You can add relations like wife, father, etc.

This (and the owner stuff) doesn't work on the iPhone address book, right?
posted by smackfu at 4:10 PM on October 4, 2011


So the real question is: Why does Apple hate the free market?
Apple charges its customers and gives them hardware. Google charges its customers and gives them eyeballs. It's a pretty simple system.
Well, it depends on what you mean by 'superior'. My expectation is that Siri will probably work better than anything on Android. But it will only run on an iPhone 4. If you have ANYTHING else, even an earlier iPhone, then an open source solution is going to be better, because there's at least a chance you could get it running on your phone.
Right. Like the way lots of Android handset users have to void their warrantees to apply basic OS updates. That's open source at work.
posted by verb at 4:10 PM on October 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


One more:

* Remind me to call mom at 8 o'clock tonight.
posted by eyeballkid at 4:11 PM on October 4, 2011


Has anyone mentioned that Siri's technology was originally funded by a grant from DARPA? How cool/terrifying is that?

For some decades (i.e., until consumer-grade hardware got powerful enough), the military and intelligence services were the drivers of AI and natural-language research in the US. That's where the money was (trillion-dollar black budgets and all), and so was demand for technology (from intelligent user interfaces to allow pilots to fly increasingly complex jet fighters to text-analysis systems to extract the "gist" from huge numbers of documents falling into the NSA's purview without the need for human attention).

I studied computer science in the 1990s, and when we did natural language processing, most of the papers we looked at had a distinct military/intelligence flavour to them. (This was in Australia, and these were unclassified research papers from outside agencies receiving DARPA grants and such; one can only speculate on what the NSA actually kept under wraps.)
posted by acb at 4:12 PM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


A lot of this stuff is actually leveraging iOS 5 features that aren't specific to Siri.

Siri is setting a reminder (in the Reminders app). You can set one without Siri, all you do is create a task, select "when" and check "leaving" and for location, you can put in any addressbook contacts address.

Assuming you have filed out the card for yourself, and included both a work and home address, Siri will determine and do those steps for you. If it doesn't, it will prompt you and ask you about it.

And ideally, it will then fill in those cards for you as you go along for future use. So not just some magic cache somewhere, but will actually help correct and cleanup metadata for you as you use it.
posted by mrzarquon at 4:13 PM on October 4, 2011


* Remind me to call mom at 8 o'clock tonight.

Funny that it actually didn't hear you right.
posted by smackfu at 4:14 PM on October 4, 2011


Here's what I found about how it works, based on previous news articles & wikipedia:

1. Siri is basically made of two parts, Nuance and CALO technology

2. Nuance is/was a speech recognition company. You say something to Siri, and this part will translate what you said into text.

3. CALO stands for "Cognitive Assistant that Learns and Organizes". It was a joint project by SRI International and several research universities (CMU, Stanford, and et al), funded by DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), nearly a decade ago. Their ambition was to create the perfect virtual secretary, and they saw many practical applications of that. So, hundreds of research papers were generated with the apparent ultimate goal of killing all our secretaries.

For this type of AI to resolve your queries (machine learning techniques) is extremely processing and/or data intensive. It involves hooking into canned knowledge such as online reservations systems (OpenTable, ticketing websites), Wolfram Alpha, etc. A centralized system of servers is also effective because it lets the AI learn from the combination of all iPhone users. So I think that implies that your phone needs to be "online" in order for Siri to do its magic.

I think that's the big picture. Correct me if I got something wrong.
posted by polymodus at 4:16 PM on October 4, 2011 [7 favorites]


For people who don't believe in disposable hardware, open source is important. It lets you support a given device long after the manufacturer has lost interest and demanded you buy something new. If you're happy being told You Will Buy This New Hardware If You Want This New Software, then the AOSP is of zero use to you.

About 99% of "android's" voice recognition and intelligence is done on google's servers and the results are served up via the browser. On this particular feature the age of your device and Android's source code availability are irrelevant. I woud get the same results on my G1 running 1.5 as I do on my fancy-pants-latest-greatest Android phone.
posted by GuyZero at 4:16 PM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


hal9k: "Oh, like, big whoop."

Eponyyouknowthedeal
posted by symbioid at 4:18 PM on October 4, 2011


No wireless. Less space than a Nomad. Lame.

(I'm actually quite excited to update from my 3GS, because hey, dual-core processor in a PHONE, and plus the iPhone 4 was apparently pretty similar to the 3GS in terms of actual performance)
posted by DoctorFedora at 4:18 PM on October 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


I've tried "Call [name]" a few times, and it's always been terrible. Worse yet, neither mr. epersonae nor I can get our phones to recognize each other's names.

Works wonderfully for me. But of course, use what you like and what works for you, whatever other people like, use, and love is entirely irrelevant and often varies greatly.
posted by juiceCake at 4:21 PM on October 4, 2011


adamrice and The Winsome Parker Lewis, one way that Siri could know the location of your "work" is just by tracking your location. No address book needed, really nothing more than passive monitoring is required.

I've never told Google Latitude where I work or where I live, but because I let the app track me, it has figured out where I work to within a hundred feet and where I live within 20 feet.

My guess is that it simply sees a strong correlation between these locations and "regular working hours" or "regular sleeping hours". That won't work for everyone, but in the real world sometimes "home" and "work" aren't very well defined anyway.
posted by jjwiseman at 4:22 PM on October 4, 2011


So, hundreds of research papers were generated with the apparent ultimate goal of killing all our secretaries.

GLaDOS 5?
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:25 PM on October 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


use what you like and what works for you, whatever other people like, use, and love is entirely irrelevant and often varies greatly.

You knock that off.
posted by grubi at 4:26 PM on October 4, 2011


I just watched the keynote (its up on Apple's site) - the camera looks pretty nice. They explicitly present Siri as a beta, and are slightly nervous about demoing it live, but it does seem cool. I like the way they make the point that no-one else is combining hardware, software and cloud like Apple.

I try to only buy 2nd hand technology (because of the 'blood minerals' involved in churning out all this new tech all the time) which makes getting an iPhone a bit tricky because second hand Apple products tend to still be quite expensive. I do have a 2nd hand iPod Touch though, and I really like the whole iOS experience.

I recently got a 2nd hand Android phone though (HTC Wildfire, which is at the slow/cheap end of the Android range). I rooted it and installed a custom mod called CyanogenMod (which brings 2.3/Gingerbread to the Wildfire) and I've been having a ball. Total price including the SD card was about £130.

Its not as slick as iOS (and the Wildfire's processor struggles a bit, especially with Gingerbread which it was never meant to run, and its nowhere near as responsive as the iPod Touch was), and the touchscreen isn't as sensitive. But I can get a graph of my battery usage! I can get a Linux command line! Features not built into Android (like wait 30 min before applying password lock) can be installed as apps! I have complete access to the whole file system! Recently was stuck in a hotel and discovered that the phone can become a wireless hotspot! It just worked.

Which is to say that I admire the iPhone for its slickness and integration and quality and breaking open new frontiers (lets face it, the whole multi-touch thing was a big conceptual leap). But being a techy, I can get a much cheaper Android phone and enjoy the hell out of analysing the battery graphs. And if you're only buying 2nd hand stuff, Android makes a lot of sense.

Which is to say, there's room for everything, lets all have a hug.
posted by memebake at 4:30 PM on October 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


I've tried "Call [name]" a few times, and it's always been terrible.

Siri, call Ted

Calling Fred

Not Fred, Ted!

Sorry, did I say something wrong? Pardon me for breathing, which I never do anyway so I don't know why I bother to say it, oh god I'm so depressed. Here's another one of those self-satisfied doors. Life! Don't talk to me about life.
posted by pompomtom at 4:33 PM on October 4, 2011 [10 favorites]


Unless it can do my lesson planning for me, it's no Navi.
posted by carter at 4:37 PM on October 4, 2011


Also, if it results in people speaking in robot voices to their iPhones in public, instead of quietly texting, it's kind of a step backwards.
posted by carter at 4:40 PM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


speaking in robot voices

And carter becomes the latest member of the "did not watch the demo" club.
posted by DoctorFedora at 4:43 PM on October 4, 2011


Installed the free Siri app this morning to play around, and this afternoon played with it and my born-in-AU-schooled-in-UK-lives-in-the-US (for a whopper of an accent) coworker tried to throw it for a loop. It recognized everything he said, perfectly.

I've only had my iPhone 4 since February (before that used a Nexus One for a year, and before that had an original iPhone 2G). If I can get a contract-free iPhone 4S for less than $500 (e.g., not have to extend my VZW contract any further), I'm going to do it. Among other things, I like the new camera and the freedom of being able to travel and have the phone Just Work with prepaid SIMs, etc.
posted by mrbill at 4:53 PM on October 4, 2011


Prepaid SIMs? A world-band phone != an unlocked phone. Don't be too optimistic.
posted by GuyZero at 4:56 PM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


You know how people always make fun of Apple users for being smug and cultlike? I only really see that anymore from Android/OSS "enthusiasts."
posted by Threeway Handshake at 5:06 PM on October 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


I just asked the free version of Siri, that was up on the App store until today (and I've been using it for exactly this for a while), "Where is the nearest Chinese restaurant."

It replied with the nearest Chinese restaurant. Siri is better than you believe if you've never used it.
Okay first of all "Where is the nearest Chinese resturant" works fine for me in regular Google search on my PC.

Second of all it's one of the demo questions, so of course it would work right? The problem is when you ask it things that aren't obvious. Like "Where can I get Moo goo gai pan pain around here?" The system would have to recognize that you were looking for a type of food and then know to parse all the menus of all the nearby restaurants. That's more complex then simply searching for types of restaurants, which is probably simpler.

The problem with stuff like this is that even if it works well in some cases, it's going to break down when you try something really creative. Then it gets annoying because you don't know where the boundary is between questions you can ask and questions you can't. I know wolfram alpha was like that -- supposed to be able to parse natural language. But while it works well when doing a direct formula it hardly ever works right on a regular natural language query, and so trying to use it that way just gets annoying.

Maybe apple has figured out a way to either make the boundary really obvious or has really figure out a way to make natural language processing work really well.
---

By the way doing a google search for "do I need an umbrella today" actually brings up web pages that will tell you if you need an umbrella today, starting with umbrellatoday.com and doineedanumbrella.com and of course doineedanumbrellatoday.com/ The fourth link is to an app store app that will tell you if you need an umbrella today. So googling kinda works in that it's only a few more clicks before you get an answer.
No one actually believes that Android is somehow intrinsically superior because AOSP exists.
It means a lot for people who actually do run cyanogen mod and stuff like that. Is there anything similar for iPhones?
Right. Like the way lots of Android handset users have to void their warrantees to apply basic OS updates. That's open source at work.
That sounds like BS to me.
posted by delmoi at 5:07 PM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


So, hundreds of research papers were generated with the apparent ultimate goal of killing all our secretaries.

Most of us can't afford secretaries.
posted by empath at 5:10 PM on October 4, 2011


Delmoi, it's extremely well documented that most Android phones don't get more than a couple of OS updates. That's why the recent HTC security hole findings are such a big deal, because they seem very unlikely to ever be patched by HTC (because they're the ones who have to release the proper build of Android for each individual phone they sell, meaning that most hardware manufacturers simply don't).
posted by DoctorFedora at 5:11 PM on October 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


By the way doing a google search for "do I need an umbrella today" actually brings up web pages that will tell you if you need an umbrella today, starting with umbrellatoday.com and doineedanumbrella.com and of course doineedanumbrellatoday.com

So then it doesn't answer the question directly, is what you're saying.
posted by eyeballkid at 5:14 PM on October 4, 2011


About 99% of "android's" voice recognition and intelligence is done on google's servers and the results are served up via the browser. On this particular feature the age of your device and Android's source code availability are irrelevant. I woud get the same results on my G1 running 1.5 as I do on my fancy-pants-latest-greatest Android phone.

Which is fine, and that could run on an iPhone, too, if someone wanted to port it.

All I'm trying to point out is that if you can't run an application, it has zero value to you. If you can get an app running on your chosen hardware, even if it's difficult, or doesn't run as well as it might, then it likely has a value exceeding zero.

If you have the source, you have at least a chance of being able to preserve your hardware, and keep it fresh and useful to you, longer than you otherwise might. It's not a guarantee, but it IS guaranteed that you can't run Siri on anything but a brand-new phone.

And yes, I get why it might be too slow to run locally, but with open source, you can make that determination for yourself. Maybe it's worth waiting a few extra heartbeats for the phone to figure out what you want -- slow but high-quality local voice recognition might be better for you than other approaches. The whole point is that you get to decide.

If you don't want to decide, then there's simply no use to you in having access to source code. This is a perfectly acceptable way to interact with your electronic devices. It's an expensive one, but it's obviously worth it for quite a few people.
posted by Malor at 5:17 PM on October 4, 2011


So then it doesn't answer the question directly, is what you're saying.

Why do you hate the free market? Apple doesn't have to supply every facet of the device - third party apps are a feature they constantly brag about. What's wrong with umbrella forecasts from third parties?
posted by GuyZero at 5:19 PM on October 4, 2011


"Computah, what is the star date?" "Computah, locate Mr. Worf."

You know, you'd think in the Star Trek NG future that voice recognition would be sophisticated enough to detect a command, and if not, that voice commands being so necessary and ubiquitous would have lead to a one-syllable summons, rather than three. Kinda like "Hal."

If they do invent iTimeTravel, I want the icon for the app to be Mr. Peabody, and I want the voice command to be "Sherman, set the wayback machine to 1999," at which point I would sink every dollar I had into Apple stock.
posted by spitbull at 5:29 PM on October 4, 2011


Re: The shares: Isn't the strategy among investors to buy stock on rumors as enthusiasm for the company's future grows and then cash in once the product is actually announced, which is safer than waiting to see if the product is profitable for the company?
posted by mccarty.tim at 5:30 PM on October 4, 2011


I am still convinced this is all done on the phone, locally, and that is why it is the 4S only feature.

At the bottom "Siri is available in Beta only on iPhone 4S and requires Internet access." I have no idea how this will actually work, but I'd bet the voice processing isn't being done on the phone.

Honestly, I think the stuff they show in the video is pretty awesome. The ability to understand conversational questions instead of a strict set of commands is impressive. However, I'm not sure that actually translates to better/faster answers.

Take the umbrella example. As impressive as it is, I can simply say "weather" on my Android phone and get the same information. In addition, what if instead of trying to decide if I need an umbrella, I'm trying to decide which jacket to wear. In my head, the question is, "Brown jacket or black jacket", but I know the phone has no way of knowing the black jacket is heavier, so my best guess for a good prompt would be, "do I need a medium or heavy jacket?" But even if it got that right (and that would be pretty fucking cool if it does), wouldn't it be easier to just say, "weather"?

Maybe I've just used Google's Voice Actions for too long, but their example, "I'm in the mood for Italian food in North Beach" is not something I would ever think to speak into my phone. Why talk about your mood when "Italian food North Beach" would get you the same results.

It's really cool, but I just don't see it improving anything over what I've already got. That said, I'd love for someone to make an Android version.
posted by VoteBrian at 5:31 PM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thanks for the Edwin recommendation! For the first time ever, saying "Call [mr epersonae]" actually brought up his phone number.
posted by epersonae at 5:38 PM on October 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm hoping this is just the beginning. It'll be interesting if the software agent can get good enough judgement that you can just say, "Siri, help me mack on Julie," and Siri sends in an order for a bouquet of white roses and puts together a playlist of slow jams, heavy on the Jodeci and Keith Sweat.
posted by mullingitover at 5:40 PM on October 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


It's a bit disappointing that the most interesting thing about the launch was stock installation of a year old app, and people with existing phones being told they can't run that app any more.
posted by markr at 5:43 PM on October 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


And carter becomes the latest member of the "did not watch the demo" club.

Huh? I watched the video on Apple's site and then commented. The actors in the video are tossing around easy catches. Even if users were using non-robotic voices to talk their email, it would still be annoying.

In a more general sense, it's interesting how often restaurant locations are pulled out in AI/sematic web demos. As if people with AI/sematic web apps had nothing better to do than go to restaurants all the time. Don't get me wrong, I'd be very excited about what this would tell us about language if the thing could have an actual conversation with you, as in the Navi - but I don't see that happening any time soon.
posted by carter at 5:44 PM on October 4, 2011


By the way doing a google search for "do I need an umbrella today" actually brings up web pages that will tell you if you need an umbrella today, starting with umbrellatoday.com and doineedanumbrella.com and of course doineedanumbrellatoday.com/ The fourth link is to an app store app that will tell you if you need an umbrella today. So googling kinda works in that it's only a few more clicks before you get an answer.

If you don't understand the difference between asking your telephone a question in a conversational voice, on one hand, and typing shit into your PC, on the other, you are (1) missing the point in operatically grand fashion and (2) MeFi's ideal customer, basically.
posted by waxbanks at 5:54 PM on October 4, 2011


Just talk to Siri as you would to a person

There is no person that I love and trust as intimately as my iPhone.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 6:05 PM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Anyway, I'm on a plan, so I can upgrade my iPhone 3 to this soon. Hate the crappy camera and battery in my 3, so this is going to be amazing.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 6:05 PM on October 4, 2011


will this make Shazam better?
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 6:12 PM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Delmoi, it's extremely well documented that most Android phones don't get more than a couple of OS updates. That's why the recent HTC security hole findings are such a big deal, because they seem very unlikely to ever be patched by HTC (because they're the ones who have to release the proper build of Android for each individual phone they sell, meaning that most hardware manufacturers simply don't).
The statement was that people need to void their warrantees in order to apply updates. If they get "a few" updates it seems like will probably get updates while they're still under warranty, which is usually about a year. After a year there's no warranty to void, so it's not an issue.
If you don't understand the difference between asking your telephone a question in a conversational voice, on one hand, and typing shit into your PC
Oh sorry, let me try asking my 3 year old phone (released October 2008) in a 'conversational tone' and see what happens....

... yup, it's exactly the same thing. The same three links for websites, plus the link for the umbrella today iPhone app (ironically). Also, it turns out that I do not, in fact, need an umbrella. A lot of people don't realize that Google will work perfectly well with 'natural language' queries. But it often does.
you are (1) missing the point in operatically grand fashion
What is the point, exactly? Obviously it was a slightly clunky experience. It would have been better if if the phone had just told me itself rather then redirecting me to another site. But the question is how much this actually ads. If the language processing and knowledge base is really good, then it could be useful. If it's the ability to detect a couple of different query types and come up with good answers, then it will probably end up just a gimmick no one uses. It will be interesting to see.
There is no person that I love and trust as intimately as my iPhone.
How much do you trust Apple's data centers?
posted by delmoi at 6:16 PM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I truly hope I'm wrong, but I just see zero application of Siri to my life. I tend to be paranoid, and I just don't trust that f.ex. an appointment I've made using voice will in fact be accurate - that there's been no mistake by Siri/AI in capturing what I said, and that the date/time set or action required is what I wanted, instead of being off by a digit or involve the wrong person or any number of cockups; now, I understand that Siri can repeat what I say, and I can check visually, but quite frankly this is way slower than my just doing stuff typing/touching onscreen and having an instant confirmation in real time as I do stuff. And so on for everything - if I have to double-check stuff and babysit Siri, it's just not worth the aggravation and slowness. It's false efficiency. I've been trained to have a record of stuff and visual confirmations. Even in meatspace, with an assistant, it's the same thing - if I tell someone to please do X, Y, and Z, I'd rather send an email and have a record of the request. And if I need that kind of interaction so that even a live human won't be enough, then Siri/AI is only that much worse.

Further, for a lot (most?) stuff, I'd need true AI - not these toys. Take the Chinese food example. Sorry, but it's hard for me to picture a situation where I need to ask "where is the nearest Chinese restaurant". If I feel like Chinese (or whatever) and I have no idea where I should go, then there's about zero chance my criterion would be "the nearest". In real life, I'd like to read up on Yelp or wherever to make sure what I'm getting. There's no way I'm going to coach Siri through the process - it's so much faster for me to just do it the old-fashioned way using my fingers.

In general: people read and write MUCH FASTER than using speech. This means in general I'm much faster for a lot of use scenarios using my fingers instead of my voice with Siri even if Siri were 100% reliable and I didn't need to do course correction.

In most public spaces, I'd rather do stuff silently than talk to Siri. In general, I favor electronic communication, not voice - I prefer email to the phone, f.ex.

Now, no doubt there are scenarios where this is useful, but I suspect that this is not something that would be so vital that Siri would become a part of my daily interactions with a phone.

Again, maybe I'm just crazy wrong - I hope I am, I love being surprised and having my expectations exceeded. Maybe I'm suffering from a failure of imagination.

So apart from Siri, there really is not much to the 4S - sure a nicer camera is nice, but the last one was already good enough for my purposes. Unless there's stuff that was not covered in the presentation, I must say, this was about the worst one I've seen from Apple yet, as far as excitement factor for me. There's nothing there that I feel any desire to own - my iPod Touch 4G is as good as whatever this new one is, and we already knew all about io5. Pfft.
posted by VikingSword at 6:25 PM on October 4, 2011 [8 favorites]


What would be much simpler, is if the people who had no interest or impressed-ness by this news would simply skip the thread instead of playing Stop Having Fun Guys.
posted by DoctorFedora at 6:45 PM on October 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


Delmoi, it's extremely well documented that most Android phones don't get more than a couple of OS updates.

Source, please. Should be easy if it's so "well documented."

I say this as someone who has updated his Android phone three times so far.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:51 PM on October 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


What would be much simpler, is if the people who had no interest or impressed-ness by this news would simply skip the thread instead of playing Stop Having Fun Guys.

Yes, threads are much improved when they're nothing but sycophantic echo chambers.
posted by kafziel at 6:52 PM on October 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


I can't be the only person who immediately thought of Liz Lemon's beautiful but confidence-destroying assistant in 30 Rock, can I? Although that turns out to be spelled Cerie.
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:55 PM on October 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


What would be much simpler, is if the people who had no interest or impressed-ness by this news would simply skip the thread instead of playing Stop Having Fun Guys.

It would be great if we all could discuss any news without someone wanting to limit that discussion. As consumers we all have different needs and perspectives. As someone who has a lot of Apple gear, I have a natural interest in new products Apple introduces. There is nothing wrong in my expressing how successful Apple has been in meeting my needs. I want to hear if perhaps I am missing something, and I like to see what other people think.
posted by VikingSword at 6:55 PM on October 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


That's absolutely right, kafziel. Couldn't have said it better myself.
posted by Malor at 6:56 PM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


DoctorFedora: "What would be much simpler, is if the people who had no interest or impressed-ness by this news would simply skip the thread instead of playing Stop Having Fun Guys."

It doesn't make for much of a discussion if only people of one opinion are allowed to comment.
posted by octothorpe at 6:57 PM on October 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


My AT&T contract has been up for quite a while. I passed on a new phone last Christmas and again earlier this year, for my birthday. My old phone is finally crapping out so I can't wait any longer and, honestly, I wish I'd just bought a 4 last December.
posted by The Hamms Bear at 7:01 PM on October 4, 2011


markr: and people with existing phones being told they can't run that app any more.

Yeah, I'm really surprised that people aren't angrier about this -- Apple is taking away something you were using, and which presumably worked reasonably well, to force you into new hardware. That's pretty scummy.

And then people are decrying open source as worthless, to boot. That strikes me as remarkably poor thinking.
posted by Malor at 7:03 PM on October 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


Octothorpe, It also doesn't make for much of a discussion when half of it is just "this sucks, stop being excited."
posted by DoctorFedora at 7:03 PM on October 4, 2011


Everything's Amazing And Yet Everyone's Miserable
posted by fungible at 7:09 PM on October 4, 2011 [8 favorites]


Civil_Disobedient: "Delmoi, it's extremely well documented that most Android phones don't get more than a couple of OS updates.

Source, please. Should be easy if it's so "well documented."

I say this as someone who has updated his Android phone three times so far
"

http://techcrunch.com/2011/01/17/ios-android-breakdown/ is from January but it's fairly emblematic of things.

http://www.androidcentral.com/latest-android-version-numbers-are-out-froyo-still-rules-roost is from August. No real changes. I mean, hell, as of August, only barely more than 1% of Android devices were running the most recent major revision of the OS. Part of this is because all signs seem to point to the Android market being primarily people who would otherwise buy non-smartphones, rather than people who would otherwise buy other smartphones, and that they may simply not know any better about actually updating their software.

And then there's this tutorial showing how to install a then-eight-month-old revision of the OS on a fairly popular phone, and it looks like something you'd need a neck-beard and an Amiga to care about, much less understand. This tutorial is crucial because without it, there simply isn't any officially supported way to run the most recent software on your barely-over-a-year-old phone.

So yeah, that's the kind of problem with the Android ecosystem I'm referring to. Your case may well be an outlier, especially if you're one of the hopefully-now-two-full-percent running Android 3 of any flavor.

In the meanwhile, Apple has demonstrated a pattern of supporting every iOS for a minimum of two years with OS updates, which in the phone world is basically the life span of the "until I get a discount on a new phone" period anyway.
posted by DoctorFedora at 7:19 PM on October 4, 2011 [8 favorites]


This was disappointing to me. I am 6 months from the end of a 3-year contract on my 3G, and while I'm sure the 4S will be 'streets ahead' it doesn't seem like the big leap I was hoping for. I think Apple should have managed expectations better.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 7:27 PM on October 4, 2011


> I think Apple should have managed expectations better

How exactly should Apple manage the expectations of a rumor mill when this is the very first announcement of a product? Even when almost everything about the 4s was being leaked over these last few days, pretty much confirming that there was just going to be one phone, and it was going to be fast and in the same case, and Siri was going to be in it, everyone was still calling for the iPhone 5, and thinking the S was going to be the cheap, prepaid, worldphone model.

Yet all of us hoped that those rumors couldn't be the only ones, and Apple had to have something more.
posted by mrzarquon at 7:31 PM on October 4, 2011


I think Apple should have managed expectations better.

You mean like the part where they said literally nothing of any sort about the iPhone 4S, including the name of the phone itself, until the big thing today?
posted by DoctorFedora at 7:33 PM on October 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


They should have attached some fins to it. Then people would be impressed.
posted by dumbland at 7:42 PM on October 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


They should have attached some fins to it. Then people would be impressed.

I would pay so much for a phone styled after one of those 50s phones with the fins. Bit of Raygun Gothic.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 7:44 PM on October 4, 2011


How much do you trust Apple's data centers?

About as much as you should trust Amazon's or Microsoft's.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:49 PM on October 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Heaven knows updating Android on older phones has been like getting blood from a stone.

Shhhh.. You can't say that stuff here.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:51 PM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Happy iPhone 4 owner here. Ubuntu at home. Windows at work.

Has anyone out there ever, ever actually used voice recognition for anything other than a test of the technology?

Come on. Come clean. It's quicker to fucking type.
posted by Jimbob at 7:53 PM on October 4, 2011 [6 favorites]


DoctorFedora: I mean, hell, as of August, only barely more than 1% of Android devices were running the most recent major revision of the OS.[...] Your case may well be an outlier, especially if you're one of the hopefully-now-two-full-percent running Android 3 of any flavor.

With respect, you've misunderstood the statistics. Android 3 is a tablet operating system. People aren't putting it on their phones because it doesn't go on phones. If you want to sneer about that statistic, the correct sneer is that nobody is buying Android tablets.

So, looking at that with that fact, about 94% of phones are running 2.x, and 79% are running Froyo or Gingerbread. Gingerbread is an incremental update - a nice-to-have, but there's not the same gap between 2.3 and 2.2 as there was between 2.2 and 2.1, and that gap in turn is much smaller than the gap between 1.x and 2.x.
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:53 PM on October 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm still really curious to know about how the 4S Siri software is split between the device and Apple's cloud servers (if at all). I don't believe there's information out there on this yet? I didn't see the talk, maybe they said something about how the technology was implemented?
posted by polymodus at 7:54 PM on October 4, 2011


Followup—according to New Scientist (today's article), the entire voice command is transmitted and processed remotely.
posted by polymodus at 7:58 PM on October 4, 2011


Has anyone out there ever, ever actually used voice recognition for anything other than a test of the technology?

Come on. Come clean. It's quicker to fucking type.


I use it all the time on my iPhone 3GS when I call people. I prefer the voice command to looking up the contact in the address book. Works great. Has snags from time to time, but man, it's WAAAY easier than any other way of calling people.
posted by grubi at 7:59 PM on October 4, 2011


Come on. Come clean. It's quicker to fucking type.

Thus far, if you're dictating long documents, absolutely, though it's better these days then ever before. I don't think this is that sort of thing. This strikes me as sort of Swype for voice, and Swype is nicely adaptive and impressive so this may be as well. Voice commands on my Nexus S work nicely and it's a great thing to use when I can't use my fingers.

I don't care if Apple bought this, invented it, or ripped it off. I don't care who made what I use or consume (I don't get in a motor vehicle wondering if the tyres on the car were not made by the company that didn't originally invent the wheel and therefore they, the tyres, and the company, must suck) and it's unfortunate that these threads are reduced to that sort of bullshit but if this works nicely, great. Just another step in the varied road of technology made up of contributions from many individuals and companies. It may have some of the current faults of voice technology, it may have solved some of them too. So it goes.
posted by juiceCake at 8:03 PM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I use voice recognition for calling people extremely often, because I drive, and also walk around with my headphones in and my phone in my pocket. I've used it for playing music a lot too.
posted by tehloki at 8:04 PM on October 4, 2011


I use it all the time on my iPhone 3GS when I call people.

Hmm. Must be the Australian accent. All mine manages to do consistently, when I've tried it, is to PAUSE IPOD. Click contacts, click favourites, click person, dial, however, works seamlessly.
posted by Jimbob at 8:04 PM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Click contacts, click favorites, look up, swerve to avoid tree, hit pedestrian, hit different tree, fly out of windshield, land on iphone, PAUSE IPOD
posted by tehloki at 8:06 PM on October 4, 2011 [7 favorites]


Jimbob: Might be. My accent is as about as regionless American as you could ask for. I might have an advantage -- the advantage of sounding like a neutral robot. ;-)
posted by grubi at 8:07 PM on October 4, 2011


You just haven't got the mad skillzz, tehloki.
posted by Jimbob at 8:08 PM on October 4, 2011


> the entire voice command is transmitted and processed remotely.

I don't know if that is just speculation by them, as that is how Siri used to do it. They may be right, but for some of the simpler things (call bob, text this person) look like stuff that a faster / better voice assistant could do, since that is almost what Apple has working locally to begin with (in voice assistance).

And if that is the case, I'd want to see how the iPhone handles voice commands when it doesn't have an internet connection.
posted by mrzarquon at 8:09 PM on October 4, 2011


I don't care if Apple bought this, invented it, or ripped it off.

FWIW, bought it. Siri was spun off from the military project as a commercial venture, had a couple of rounds of funding and then got bought for a tidy sum by Apple. I think that's all pretty much totally legit.

I use voice recognition for transcribing sometimes when I want to save my fingers - Dragon Dictate, so the same Nuance tech at base as Siri. It's a lot better than it used to be, albeit far from perfect, but presumably the set of words Siri will need to recognise will be smaller, so there will be less ambiguity.
posted by running order squabble fest at 8:13 PM on October 4, 2011


The video stream is up, around 72 minutes in is the live demo of the Siri tech, for folks who want to see what happens.

Looking at the screen post queries, it does look like network traffic is happening post Siri questioning.
posted by mrzarquon at 8:18 PM on October 4, 2011


It's weird that Apple gets grief for buying Siri. I mean, Google had to buy Android, right?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:20 PM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Much of that could be from internet queries rather than Siri processing, though. It's not unlikely that Siri processing mostly done on the device.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 8:21 PM on October 4, 2011


I don't see anyone realistically griefing anyone. All of these companies are leeching off DoD funded research and selling it back to the taxpayers.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 8:22 PM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Actually, looking at the query that didn't require network access (compose a meeting invite), it only showed the network access badge when he sent it.

So yeah, it might actually be processing audio locally, hitting servers for queries (weather, what timezone paris france is in, etc) that it can't process locally. Also if you ask it a complicated question, it could in theory upload that to the siri backend to be processed as well.
posted by mrzarquon at 8:26 PM on October 4, 2011


In general: people read and write MUCH FASTER than using speech. This means in general I'm much faster for a lot of use scenarios using my fingers instead of my voice with Siri even if Siri were 100% reliable and I didn't need to do course correction.


No way do people write more quickly then they talk, especially on cell phones. I can type at 60-70 WPM, and I get about 25-30 on my G1's physical keyboard when I'm playing typing games, but it's probably a lot slower in practice. Dragon Dictate claims they can handle about 120-160 WPM.
Part of this is because all signs seem to point to the Android market being primarily people who would otherwise buy non-smartphones,
What does that even mean? That there is a fixed set of people buying non-android phones, and android sales are coming from people who would by feature phones? Why does this matter, are you implying android users are somehow stupider or something? I don't really get it.
And then there's this tutorial showing how to install a then-eight-month-old revision of the OS on a fairly popular phone, and it looks like something you'd need a neck-beard and an Amiga to care about
Right, because anyone who actually understands or cares how technology works is a "Neckbeard". Although it's fascinating how you've gone from (presumably) "People who buy android phones are all technophobes who would just be buying dumbphones" to "Android is only for Neckbeard computer nerds" I mean, which is it?

Anyway the question was whether or not you needed to Void your warranty to install OS updates. I haven't seen anything that clearly indicates that both updating your phone will void your warranty, and that the phone will stop being updated during the warranty period, which, obviously, is the only time you can void your warranty.

If a phone stops getting updated, and you've had it over a year, then you have no warranty to void.
posted by delmoi at 8:27 PM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Windows Phone already has voice recognition such that you can do a lot of smart/very interesting things with, but tellme (which is parallel cloud based algorithm speech recognition) is pretty good because it builds on the collective knowledge of bing to learn how to understand humans better.
posted by niccolo at 8:34 PM on October 4, 2011


> it builds on the collective knowledge of bing

We're all doomed!

sorry, too easy
posted by Horselover Phattie at 8:36 PM on October 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


I use voice recognition for calling people extremely often, because I drive

Knock it off before you kill someone.
posted by adamdschneider at 8:37 PM on October 4, 2011


What? You're joking, right? Do your eyes and hands stop working when you're saying words?
posted by tehloki at 8:40 PM on October 4, 2011


running order squabble fest: "DoctorFedora: I mean, hell, as of August, only barely more than 1% of Android devices were running the most recent major revision of the OS.[...] Your case may well be an outlier, especially if you're one of the hopefully-now-two-full-percent running Android 3 of any flavor.

With respect, you've misunderstood the statistics. Android 3 is a tablet operating system. People aren't putting it on their phones because it doesn't go on phones. If you want to sneer about that statistic, the correct sneer is that nobody is buying Android tablets.

So, looking at that with that fact, about 94% of phones are running 2.x, and 79% are running Froyo or Gingerbread. Gingerbread is an incremental update - a nice-to-have, but there's not the same gap between 2.3 and 2.2 as there was between 2.2 and 2.1, and that gap in turn is much smaller than the gap between 1.x and 2.x
"

Quoted for "I stand corrected."
posted by DoctorFedora at 8:45 PM on October 4, 2011


You're joking, right? Do your eyes and hands stop working when you're saying words?

No, but your brain apparently does.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:48 PM on October 4, 2011 [7 favorites]


His thoughts were red thoughts, is there real-world data that backs up those experiments? Now I'm getting kind of nervous.
posted by tehloki at 8:50 PM on October 4, 2011


Is Android 3 the one that also has a fully-closed source?
posted by Threeway Handshake at 8:54 PM on October 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yes, Android 3 (Honeycomb) was released to only a handful of manufacturers. Google claims that the next version (Ice Cream Sandwich) will scale for both tablets and phones and the source code will be released.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 8:57 PM on October 4, 2011


is there real-world data that backs up those experiments?

I once walked straight into a utility pole because I was so wrapped up in a conversation with someone. QED.
posted by cortex at 9:01 PM on October 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


is there real-world data that backs up those experiments?

Here's one that used real traffic conditions, in an instrumented car. Same results. Small sample size, though - only 12 participants.

I'm sorry, but I don't have easy access to the full articles, except for one of the simulated driving ones. Worth a read though.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:19 PM on October 4, 2011


No, but your brain apparently does.

Talking on a cellphone while driving is apparently equivalent to driving with a 0.8 BAC. However, studies also show that if you're talking about your drive then you actually drive more safely then while not talking. That's what I remember from various articles though.

Back when they were trying to lower the legal limit for alcohol one of the arguments was that "It's no more dangerous to drive with a 0.8 BAC then it is to drive while talking on a cellphone!"

It's more dangerous, but it's probably not that much more dangerous. A lot of states do require a hands-free kit, though.
posted by delmoi at 9:49 PM on October 4, 2011


Is Android 3 the one that also has a fully-closed source?

Still closed, too.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:22 PM on October 4, 2011


And it's hard to fault Google fo trying to ensure that only well-established manufacturers ship tablets with their new OS given the explosion of utter crap that ran 2.x.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 10:30 PM on October 4, 2011


I'm excited that the iPhone 4S will come in a 64GB variety, at last. My 32GB iPhone 4 is nearly full.
posted by IndigoRain at 10:42 PM on October 4, 2011


Goddamn, that's a lot of storage in a handheld. Not that much HD video yet, but god, I remember being all impressed by 256 megabyte SD cards. "Wow, 250ish floppies, and it's not much bigger than a postage stamp." That new iPhone will have 256 times that much.
posted by Malor at 10:47 PM on October 4, 2011


(and, yes, I had a 160 gig iPod, which was pretty cool, but 64 gigs of solid state memory that you can't easily abuse into a head crash is much better.)
posted by Malor at 10:49 PM on October 4, 2011


When my iPod broke I went with just my iPhone, and only being able to carry a fraction of a fraction of my music has made my listening habits even narrower
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 10:53 PM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think iTunes Match will change that functionality for a lot of people. Get 64GB on your phone, or pay $25/year to access all of your music in your iTunes library (maybe another $20-40 if you have tons of stuff that have to live in iCloud, because of obscurity).

From what I've read, it pretty much replaces your iTunes library with the iTunes match, so you can see all the song you have access to, including ones not on your device. It takes a few seconds to start playing any song, but you can also start it downloading a whole album in the background.

Considering the price difference it's $200 between a 16gb or 64gb iPhone 4s, or you could pay for two years of iTunes match, along with an additional 20GB of storage (for the songs not available on iTunes match) for $170.

And after two years, in 2013, chances are you are already looking at spending another $199 minimum to get the iPhone 5s anyway. Which will probably ship with 32 or 64gb as the base storage amount.
posted by mrzarquon at 11:45 PM on October 4, 2011


From what I've read, it pretty much replaces your iTunes library with the iTunes match, so you can see all the song you have access to, including ones not on your device. It takes a few seconds to start playing any song, but you can also start it downloading a whole album in the background.

does it work with Shuffle, though? I like being able to randomize a huge music collection
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 11:48 PM on October 4, 2011


Sorry, my math was wrong. You could spend $25 a year for iTunes Match, and it appears it doesn't count towards your iCloud storage amount at all for the songs that aren't from eligible labels. Instead you just get whatever version of the songs that your main computer has uploaded.

So its $50 for two years of all the music in your music library, vs $199 for an extra 48GB of storage to hold all that music.
posted by mrzarquon at 11:51 PM on October 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


> does it work with Shuffle, though? I like being able to randomize a huge music collection

As long as you have data / wifi access it does. There is a gap between songs, as it if it picks out a song that isn't local, it has to buffer the stream. Shuffling your entire library while on metered 3G would probably not be a good idea (by default, it looks like it only does this when you are on wifi).

This is why Apple says it is streaming: it streams the song to you almost immediately when you try to play it, and then it also tries to download / cache it permanently, for the next time you want to use it. So the downside of this if you randomize enough, you will eventually fill up your machine as it caches each song it plays. There doesn't appear to be anything related to Genius in match yet, it's either Shuffle, or grab a playlist (but that can be a genius playlist created on your desktop) so it knows what songs to download ahead of time.
posted by mrzarquon at 12:04 AM on October 5, 2011


I still don't trust it, what with the patchy coverage in Aus. And I'm with a carrier so unreliable my little brother got national media attention for making a hate site against them
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 12:14 AM on October 5, 2011


But it appears you can get the iPhone from three other carriers there. Considering that everyone includes something like a 500mb cap, I wouldn't risk using iTunes match over their data service anyway, just leave it set for Wifi.
posted by mrzarquon at 12:20 AM on October 5, 2011


Oh yes, for folks who want CDMA iPhone service, but don't want Verizon's realtime jpg compression, Sprint is carrying it now as well.
posted by mrzarquon at 12:35 AM on October 5, 2011


Verizon's realtime jpg compression

Oh my god that is horrific.
posted by delmoi at 1:20 AM on October 5, 2011


http://techcrunch.com/2011/01/17/ios-android-breakdown/ is from January but it's fairly emblematic of things.

Woah, hold the phone (sorry, couldn't resist).

You're quoting an article from January? I mean, let's not cherry-pick our evidence or anything!

I mean, hell, as of August, only barely more than 1% of Android devices were running the most recent major revision of the OS.

The "most recent revision" is for tablets. Apples and oranges. The most recent revision for phones is 2.3 (gingerbread). That's one (major release) version up from the previous 2.2 (froyo), which was a major release up from 2.1 (eclair), which was a major release up from 1.6 (donut), which was a major release up from 1.5 (cupcake). OH NO, FRAGMENTATION! Except, wait a second, Not really, at all, actually. Only 2.5% are using anything older than 2.x, and only 1.8% are using the 3.x branch, but that doesn't even matter because, as we've already gone over, that version isn't for phones. So that's 97.5% of all Android phones on basically the same feature-set.

So there goes your little Apple FUD-fest.

Meanwhile, how many major releases has the iPhone seen? One. And that's all you're ever going to see. Anything more and you need to completely replace your hardware. And a lot of the minor releases of the 4.x branch of iOS were anti-jailbreaking "upgrades" to stop users from using their own hardware! Only the most frothing Apple zealot would call that an "upgrade," but there you have it.

it looks like something you'd need a neck-beard and an Amiga to care about, much less understand

Oh that's rich! You really don't have much faith in the average Apple user's intelligence, do you? Step 1: turn off phone. Step 2: Download upgrade software. Step 3: plug in phone. Step 4: Run upgrade. I don't get it! Never fear, I'm sure friendly neck-beards would be happy to hold your wittle hand.

This tutorial is crucial because without it, there simply isn't any officially supported way to run the most recent software on your barely-over-a-year-old phone.

That's the beauty of Android: you own a phone you can upgrade without the permission of your carrier. You obviously don't get this. Stockholm Syndrome never looked so white and shiny.

So yeah, that's the kind of problem with the Android ecosystem I'm referring to. Your case may well be an outlier, especially if you're one of the hopefully-now-two-full-percent running Android 3 of any flavor.

One more time: Android 3 is for tablets. Educate yourself. I know, I know, it's so hard to understand all this complicated stuff without an engineering degree and a neck beard. Don't worry, there's help available. And it won't require a trip to the Apple store nearest you.

In the meanwhile, Apple has demonstrated a pattern of supporting every iOS for a minimum of two years with OS updates, which in the phone world is basically the life span of the "until I get a discount on a new phone" period anyway.

Translation: Planned obsolescence. Consumer slut, buy newer shinier shit.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:21 AM on October 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


> Meanwhile, how many major releases has the iPhone seen? One

You mean the 3Gs, which shipped with iOS 3 and is supported through iOS 5? Or did you mean the original iPhone which was released in June of 2007 and wasn't until June 2010 that it was dropped from major revision support upgrades (it supported 3, but not 4). So I seem to count a minimum of two for every new hardware (as in apple will support it for the next two OS revisions AFTER what came on the initial hardware).

I mean, the original iPhone went from "this is our take on a smart, use web apps" to "here is the iTunes App Store (which Apple just paid out $3 billion to developers for: btw that number wasn't for consumers, that was for other developers, wondering if they should invest in making Apps for Apple)."
posted by mrzarquon at 1:35 AM on October 5, 2011


> Consumer slut, buy newer shinier shit.

For what it's worth, you might have better chances in future discussions refraining from calling people who decide not to agree with your world view about what is and isn't practical technology (factoring in their level of technical knowledge, practical use cases, and technology access) "sluts." As it tends to make the audience you are addressing think you do not like them, and therefore they will immediately go on the defensive and disregard any factually accurate information or persuasive argument you may actually also have as well.
posted by mrzarquon at 1:45 AM on October 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


[yep: focus comments on the issues, topics, and facts at hand—not at other members of the site. No more attack stuff, please, C_D.]
posted by taz at 1:59 AM on October 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Meanwhile, how many major releases has the iPhone seen? One.

Of course! Everything apple makes is perfect so they don't need to revise their software. It "Just works"

The other thing: Why would an end user even care about fragmentation? It can be a pain for developers because you can't use the latest and greatest without spending time to write fallbacks or excising parts of your customer base. But for end users, what difference does it even make?

Why would an end-user care about a random technical issue like fragmentation levels?

I mean, OK Android 2.2 came out in May 2010, and iOS 4 came out in June of 2010. So if you think of android 2.x as being equivalent to iOS 4. So you can think of Android 2.x as being like iOS 3 and Ice Cream Sandwich as being like iOS 5. Or something.

And, man Ice Cream Sandwich is hilarious name for an OS.

The headlines are ridiculous:

"Samsung Teases Ice Cream Sandwich device for CTIA release"
"ASUS Eee Pad Transformer 2 coming soon with Ice Cream Sandwich, says Asus CEO"
"Sharp AQUOS 104SH: World's first Android Ice Cream Sandwich phone"
"Android Ice Cream Sandwich leaked"
posted by delmoi at 1:59 AM on October 5, 2011


I had a chance to hang out with some of the yelp guys in san francisco. And they really liked to go for Froyo.

Which was the first time I had heard anyone describe frozen yogurt as such. Some of the guys moved on to other jobs, and I like to think one of them is now at Google, in charge of "frozen desert based product names." Maybe he has drinks with his buddy Bob, who is in charge of "large feline based product names" at Apple.
posted by mrzarquon at 2:06 AM on October 5, 2011


About as much as you should trust Amazon's or Microsoft's.

Which, funnily enough, appears to be Apple's position.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 2:18 AM on October 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


That's the beauty of Android: you own a phone you can upgrade without the permission of your carrier.

Except for the Android phones that have locked-down boot loaders, and except for the "open source" Android operating system that isn't open source. Sure.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:18 AM on October 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


(er, I should say Android 1.x would be equivalent to iOS 3)

Also, clicking through these links apparently after Icecream Sandwich, the next name is Jelly Bean. Apparently they're going in alphabetical order: Cupcake, Donut, Eclair, Froyo, Gingerbread, Honeycomb, Ice Cream Sandwich (I wonder why they didn't just call it Ice cream) and now Jelly Bean. I never noticed that.
posted by delmoi at 2:28 AM on October 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Prepaid SIMs? A world-band phone != an unlocked phone. Don't be too optimistic.

Apple sell unlocked iPhones from their stores in some countries. I know, because I bought one (in the UK).
posted by acb at 3:27 AM on October 5, 2011


Also, clicking through these links apparently after Icecream Sandwich, the next name is Jelly Bean. Apparently they're going in alphabetical order: Cupcake, Donut, Eclair, Froyo, Gingerbread, Honeycomb, Ice Cream Sandwich (I wonder why they didn't just call it Ice cream) and now Jelly Bean. I never noticed that.

Android releases are named after things that you might like to eat.
OS X releases are named after things that might like to eat you.

I have high hopes that the Apple vs Android debate might finally be settled in this thread. Possibly also Apple vs PC too. Thats my contribution. You're welcome.
posted by memebake at 3:42 AM on October 5, 2011 [5 favorites]


ah, now it makes sense why apple went after samung's tablets and phones in court. they knew they didn't have anything special up their sleeves.

Samsung Doesn’t Copy Apple
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:57 AM on October 5, 2011


Siri, ask Chad and Brad to meet me in Starbucks for a Skinny Latte and Vegan snacks whilst we discuss sales figures on my MacBook Air and discuss our new line in products designed for people with disabilities and also coloured people, both groups being equal and respected partners in today's modern workplace. Afterwards, we can put all this work stuff aside and go for a bite to eat in that new BBQ place.
Basically, Siri will allow us iPhone users to describe images like this to each other without actually speaking to each other.
posted by dougrayrankin at 4:09 AM on October 5, 2011


So I'm thinking that Siri is better than the old Orange Wildfire service that used to run in the UK?
posted by arcticseal at 4:49 AM on October 5, 2011


w0mbat: "My car's GPS system only understands me at all if I do a fake american accent instead of my normal BBC english. I'm assuming that Siri will require similar pandering."

My car's nav system did this too. Had to switch to a bad accent so it could understand me otherwise it would turn the AC off instead of calling my wife. Just gave up using it.
posted by arcticseal at 5:02 AM on October 5, 2011


Man, I had no idea my Android phone* had a voice interface thingie. This is going to be like when the iPhone 4 was released and I discovered my Sony phone from 2007 had video conferencing, isn't it? i.e. I try it once, go, "ooooh" and then never use it again.

It's a shame I'm not going to get to play with this new Siri thing on my gen 4 Touch, but if they've not changed the screen I don't see any reason to upgrade: Apple have announced the game that's going to take advantage of the faster CPU and it's not one I'm interested in.

* when I first got it I rooted it and upgraded from 2.1 to 2.3.3, and then saw a team of skilled electrologists to have my neckbeard removed.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 5:16 AM on October 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think Apple should have managed expectations better.

You mean like the part where they said literally nothing of any sort about the iPhone 4S, including the name of the phone itself, until the big thing today?


Yes, exactly. They were certainly well aware that the tech world was expecting them to launch something more significant than what they released. They let people think they were going to bust out the 5, and then delivered a 4 and a half. I guess letting speculation run wild helped their share price in the build up.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 5:40 AM on October 5, 2011


siri seems very compelling as a tech demo, but as noted by others, i suspect its realworld usage will be somewhat limited. i'll be picking up a 4GS as my 3GS is a piece of shit that now crashes every 5 minutes and so i have been reduced to using a dumphone the last 2 months. i expect that siri will be of use to me only when i am cycling -- being able to be read the content of text messages i receive rather than having to stop and actually check my phone will be pretty handy.
posted by modernnomad at 5:52 AM on October 5, 2011


They were certainly well aware that the tech world was expecting them to launch something more significant than what they released.

It isn't Apple's job to quell press speculation, though. And if you tell everyone ahead of time what they are getting at the event, it becomes a bit deadly - the livebloggers were becoming mutinous during the recappy parts of iOS 5 and iCloud... who among us, after all, would have traded foreknowledge for the thrill of the revelation of the PadFone?
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:04 AM on October 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


They were certainly well aware that the tech world was expecting them to launch something more significant than what they released. They let people think they were going to bust out the 5, and then delivered a 4 and a half.

Which will continue to be the best selling smart phone.
posted by empath at 6:04 AM on October 5, 2011


who among us, after all, would have traded foreknowledge for the thrill of the revelation of the PadFone ?

It's amazing how hard it is to do product announcements the way apple does them.
posted by empath at 6:06 AM on October 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


They did good. This is a fine alternate-year upgrade. I like the new camera very much, and Siri gives me wood.

Voice control is the Next Big Thing because no matter how elegant or beautiful a touchscreen UI display is, you still have to deal with a nearly infinite number of modal interactions with the screen and your fingers. Voice does away with all of that: say what you want and the robot deduces the context thus doing away with the modality of the interface.

Another high point: they put a lot of horsepower and RAM in this device, more than it needs right now, so it will be able to handle iOS upgrades for longer than any previous device (a sore point with many people).

That said, unless my partner wants my 4, I'm probably not going to slap down $650 this time around. My eyes are getting worse; I almost always look at the phone over the top of my glasses now, and I'd like a little more screen real-estate. Even a half inch more diagonally would be a big help. And while Siri is amazing, I would probably feel like a fucking jackass talking into my phone at e.g. the dentist's office to set an appointment.

Another thing... all these voice demos show people ALONE. Not standing in a room with a dozen other people who will just freaking stare at you like you're MARTIAN MOON MAN asking about the weather or wondering about restaurants. ARE YOU TALKING TO ME PHONE BOY ABOUT THE WEATHER? WHY DONT YOU ORDER US ALL SOME COFFEE! ALSO THE BEST THING WOULD BE IF YOU WOULD SHUT UP SO WE CAN GLARE AT YOU MORE EFFECTIVELY.

Of course this brave new world of technology, we'll all be alone in our 3D virtual reality beds anyway so talking into the aether is just fine, right? Perhaps I've had too much coffee this morning, what do you think?
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:07 AM on October 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


seanmpuckett: "all these voice demos show people ALONE. Not standing in a room with a dozen other people who will just freaking stare at you like you're MARTIAN MOON MAN asking about the weather or wondering about restaurants."

A fair point. But we've adapted to people having mobile-phone conversations with other human beings—even when they're not actually holding a phone to their heads. Maybe it won't be such a stretch to adapt to people issuing instructions to their phone after all.

Or perhaps someone will come out with a subvocalization mic for the 4S
posted by adamrice at 6:17 AM on October 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm surprised they're not selling an alterna-iPhone with a larger screen, tbh. While I prefer the small screens on my Touch and Android phones for reading and web browsing, I can't deny that my dad's HTC, with its thirty-four acres of incredibly bright screen, is nicer and easier to use for stuff like maps, games, and the like.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 6:19 AM on October 5, 2011


That would be great.

"Brian, you keep muttering under your breath and then either putting on or taking off a raincoat. Do you need to talk to me about something?"
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:19 AM on October 5, 2011


I think i'd rather have something like Quicksilver with voice recognition. More structured and predictable, but still with a voice interface, and with all the ties into other, non-apple apps.
posted by empath at 6:29 AM on October 5, 2011


It isn't Apple's job to quell press speculation, though.

In the past, they've leaked to the WSJ if they do want to control speculation. For instance, here was their leak about the iPad 2. Here is the one about the iPad, although they put a $999 price out there to test the waters or make the $499 actual price seem cheap.

And they did actual have a store about this iPhone, here, and it got the camera part right, but also said it would be lighter and thicker. That is probably what fueled a lot of the rumors, in fact.

The idea that Apple doesn't manipulate the press is charming.
posted by smackfu at 7:55 AM on October 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


It's called ice cream sandwich because there aren't many desserts that start with "I" and a bowl of plain ice cream looks the same as frozen yogurt (aka froyo).

Also, those are just code names. I don't think you see them anywhere at all in the final product.
posted by GuyZero at 8:38 AM on October 5, 2011


> I don't think you see them anywhere at all in the final product.

On some devices you'll see it in the Build Number properties field (but not the actual Android Version field) in the About section of the settings, but that's generally done by the developers who coded up that particular device.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 8:43 AM on October 5, 2011


Also, I don't get the flamewar about updating Android devices. There are step by step instructions for flashing alternate ROMs and unlocking bootloaders for ost all of the popular devices sold. Besides, carriers typically don't sell these things with any promises of updates to the next major release. If you don't like how the OS is set up on a particular device, don't buy it.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 8:47 AM on October 5, 2011


There are step by step instructions for flashing alternate ROMs and unlocking bootloaders for ost all of the popular devices sold.

Because this is a pain in the ass, and most people won't do it.
posted by empath at 8:49 AM on October 5, 2011


> Because this is a pain in the ass, and most people won't do it.

That's fine, then. Notice I said that if they don't like how the OS is on a new device, don't buy it.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 8:50 AM on October 5, 2011


smackfu: The idea that Apple doesn't manipulate the press is charming.


Sure - and the 8MP image put on Flickr from an "iPhone 4" was a plant, and the prototypes get left in bars on purpose, and so on. Elephants all the way down!

If you read the sentence you quoted, however, you'll notice I didn't say "Apple doesn't manipulate the press". I said "It isn't Apple's job to quell press speculation". That remains the case. It's exciting that you are charmed by people who have a totally different idea than I, though, and if I find one I will send them over to you.

More practically, why would Apple want to tell everyone definitively exactly what they were launching ahead of time? That defeats the object of having a press reveal. Arguably, if expectations are that they were going to be releasing a phone that cured scrofula, that might cause a temporary dip in the share price, but it doesn't really matter a huge amount in thelogn term.

Whether it was called 4S or 5, though, the iPhone wasn't likely to be very surprising. Dual-core processor, 8MP camera and 1080p video capture basically brings the iPhone 4S into technical line with the HTC Sensation, Samsung Galaxy S II, LG Optimus 2x and Droid Bionic 4G LTE. It removes a possible reason for big-spending comparison shoppers to favor a high-spec Android device with bigger top-line spec numbers than an iPhone 4, essentially. This event was really about software - on the device with iOS, in the cloud with iCloud and in both with Siri.

In fact, speaking of software, the most interesting announcement, for me, was pretty much tossed off by Scott Forstall - that iOS 5 would allow an iPad to be used PC-free, that is without the sync metaphor that has defined iOS devices thus far. That suddenly makes iPad + keyboard not just a viable netbook replacement for people with an iMac or a big MBP, but also a viable home computer replacement for people with limited home computing needs. That's an interesting market to open up.
posted by running order squabble fest at 8:59 AM on October 5, 2011


(When I say limited, I mean beneath even a MacBook Air level - like, email, video chat, the web, Facebook, and a TV remote in the living room that also allows them to watch TV/listen to music in bed or in the conservatory. My mom, essentially, and I say that not in a sexist "even-your-mom-could-use-Linux-now" way, but very specifically regarding my actual mom.)
posted by running order squabble fest at 9:15 AM on October 5, 2011


> but also a viable home computer replacement for people with limited home computing needs.

I guess if they're getting their wireless router preconfigured from their ISP and they know how to rely on cloud storage, then maybe.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 9:18 AM on October 5, 2011


Because this is a pain in the ass

It's a time versus money tradeoff, generally. In exchange for some time on your part, you can use your phone for anything you want, and you can keep it updated longer than the manufacturer intends.

If you'd rather absolutely not think about it at all, Apple has you covered; if you'd rather exercise more control over the technology you use, Android is a better choice. And it's much, much cheaper for many users. If you shop carefully for a phone you can get root on, you can keep loading new firmware on it, instead of having features being actively taken away to force you into a newer phone model. You can use the hardware as long as it's useful to you, instead of going through forced obsolescence at the manufacturer's whim. You actually own the phone, you don't just rent it.

I actually use a featurephone at the moment, myself, and I'm quite happy with it. With the unlocked firmware that Sony-Ericsson provides for the model (W760), it does everything I need very nicely. The built-in browser is nearly worthless, but when I need Net access, I can use the tethering feature in the unlocked firmware. If I were stuck with the horrible, butchered firmware that AT&T provides, it would be a nearly useless hunk of plastic for me. (In addition to charging a bunch extra for tethering, they actually have the gall to charge $10/mo to turn on the GPS feature that's built into the goddamn phone!)

In the smartphone realm, only an unlocked Android phone would really do what I need. I haven't upgraded because I haven't been able to find one that will fully support both AT&T and T-Mobile. I'd like to change carriers, but I'm not sure on T-Mobile's coverage, so I'd like to be able to do it in a zero-risk way.
posted by Malor at 9:18 AM on October 5, 2011


I think he's right about the newer iPads being a viable home computer replacement, Horselover Phattie. If you can configure a router with a PC, you should be able to configure it with an iPad.

If you actually owned one when you bought it, they'd be a pretty goddamn compelling solution.
posted by Malor at 9:22 AM on October 5, 2011


I guess if they're getting their wireless router preconfigured from their ISP and they know how to rely on cloud storage, then maybe.


Again, I'm thinking of my actual Mom. I'd set up her router.

If I were a Forbes columnist or something, rather than a loving but taciturn son who tries to show his mother he cares by setting up routers, I'd probably say that there was an opportunity here for FiOS and triple-play providers. You've already got an iPad app that works as a remote control when the user is watching the big IPTV, and flips to be a wireless-network second screen if they go to make a cup of coffee. Why not offer to set up the whole shebang at the same time, to sell in an integrated film renting/music streaming/email sending/web surfing/recipe finding/tip calculating/status updating/Skype calling TV remote?
posted by running order squabble fest at 9:37 AM on October 5, 2011


Perhaps Apple should establish a disinformation division to throw the press (and copycat competitors) off the scent with improbable leaks, mislaid prototypes and such. You know, manufacture a touchscreen device shaped like a small Frisbee, load it up with a (deliberately broken) version of iOS hastily modified to work with its geometry and leave it in a cab or bar or somewhere, and then wait if Samsung announces a revolutionary new disc-shaped tablet. Or leak, through three nominally independent sources, that the next iPod, the "iPod 3D Xtreme", will be built into a pair of Oakley Thump-style sunglasses, or that they're working on mood-sensitive search technologies, or something.
posted by acb at 9:48 AM on October 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Also, still no turn-by-turn GPS directions, huh? Nokia has 'em. Google has 'em. Seems simple enough to map the entire world.
posted by GuyZero at 9:52 AM on October 5, 2011


> "iPod 3D Xtreme"

Heh, I actually wrote those exact words with a sharpie on a box for last year's secret santa game at work. The box contained a $10 LED camping lantern that I bought at CVS minutes before the exchange.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 9:53 AM on October 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


considering that most phones cost about two thousand dollars

Gracious sir, perhaps you are in the market for a new phone or mobile device? I think you will find my terms most compelling!
posted by malocchio at 9:56 AM on October 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I guess if they're getting their wireless router preconfigured from their ISP and they know how to rely on cloud storage, then maybe.

icloud is automatic, they don't really need to now anything, and if they buy an airport express like god intended, the wireless configuration is fairly painless.
posted by empath at 10:00 AM on October 5, 2011


Also, still no turn-by-turn GPS directions, huh? Nokia has 'em. Google has 'em. Seems simple enough to map the entire world.

And they're gonna be two years behind the times as far as 4G radios go, too.
posted by kafziel at 10:09 AM on October 5, 2011


Well, see, I can see both side here. If you own a current phone with a "4G" radio - which generally means LTE - you also have something that users refer to as a "4-hour battery life". And they claim they've improved the speed of the HSPA radio in the 4S, which will be good enough for most people. Although in my backyard on Verizon 4G I have seen download speeds of 22 Mbps which is as fast, if not faster, than my home DSL service.

On the third hand, who the fuck needs 22 Mbps on a phone?
posted by GuyZero at 10:12 AM on October 5, 2011


> On the third hand, who the fuck needs 22 Mbps on a phone?

It makes video chat pretty smooth.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 10:14 AM on October 5, 2011


Yeah, I dunno, I think voice-activated computers are one of those things like videophones, where the technology has been around for a while, but nobody has adopted it because, despite sounding sufficiently futuristic and Jetson-like, it isn't something that people actually want. I mean, how hard is it to actuate a few controls on a touchscreen? Is it really that much harder than learning how to use your phone's voice interface, dealing with inevitable recognition errors, and then looking like an idiot issuing voice commands to your phone in public? This is a technology that nobody really asked for. I call non-issue.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:27 AM on October 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


> This is a technology that nobody really asked for. I call non-issue.

I dunno, the blind have probably been eagerly awaiting something like this for a while.

Also, handsfree operation where you don't have to learn the dictionary of command words before you can use the system is also extremely convenient.
posted by mrzarquon at 10:37 AM on October 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


> I think voice-activated computers are one of those things like videophones, where the technology has been around for a while, but nobody has adopted it

I think the issue of videophones is that they have been rather unsatisfying to use until very recently. Facetime and Google Talk Video are seeing a lot of usage now, as is Skype.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 10:40 AM on October 5, 2011


The biggest suck with video chat is the lack of interoperability in spite of the fact that most of the systems are built on the same set of mostly-open protocols like SIP and various video codecs. Why can I not use facetime to chat with someone on google talk or skype. Bleah.
posted by GuyZero at 10:42 AM on October 5, 2011


The biggest suck with video chat is the lack of interoperability in spite of the fact that most of the systems are built on the same set of mostly-open protocols like SIP and various video codecs. Why can I not use facetime to chat with someone on google talk or skype. Bleah.

Because it's about brand lock-in. Google Talk and Google+ Hangouts and Skype, these are widely available, but Facetime doesn't even have a Windows port. If you're on Apple hardware, that's what you use, and it can only be used with other people on Apple hardware.
posted by kafziel at 10:47 AM on October 5, 2011


I think the issue of videophones is that they have been rather unsatisfying to use until very recently. Facetime and Google Talk Video are seeing a lot of usage now, as is Skype.

Yeah, but mostly people use videochat for specific purposes -- like meetings with remote teams, or talking with far-away relatives. It doesn't seem to be getting a lot of everyday use. Anyway, the whole trend has been away from synchronous communication -- pretty much everyone I know cut their phone use drastically once text messaging became ubiquitous.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:49 AM on October 5, 2011


> It doesn't seem to be getting a lot of everyday use.

I like to see my wife when I'm away from home for a few days. Its usage is becoming widespread.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 10:50 AM on October 5, 2011


Once Apple buys up ChatRoulette and integrates it with Siri, I think videochat will finally find its legs. Imagine being able to just say "show me several strange penises and a guy in a darth vader mask after I leave work" and have it just happen. Magic!
posted by cortex at 10:51 AM on October 5, 2011 [9 favorites]


This is a technology that nobody really asked for.

Of course people will want this. It was designed by Apple. In California.
posted by polymodus at 10:55 AM on October 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Isn't bringing up 4G support a bit of a non sequitor, since coverage is so sparse as to make it unusable outside of very select metropolitan areas?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:56 AM on October 5, 2011


One could have made the same argument about 3G when the original iPhone came out.
posted by GuyZero at 10:56 AM on October 5, 2011


Well, 4G has been around for a while now, but unlike 3G it hasn't really caught on. So it seems weird to keep bringing it up like it's a real issue.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:01 AM on October 5, 2011


Imagine being able to just say "show me several strange penises and a guy in a darth vader mask after I leave work" and have it just happen.

After work? Man, if we can rig that up I'll find a way to make it work.

"Hello, this is Cock and Darth, what can I do for you today?"
posted by griphus at 11:02 AM on October 5, 2011


Oh, are we talking about non sequiturs?

In any case, no, that's not remotely true. As the slightest bit of research would tell you.
posted by kafziel at 11:03 AM on October 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I dunno, I'm seeing 4G coverage in most major metro areas. Like I said, the radios have issues with battery life in my experience, but I expect that will get better over time. But I got 4G coverage in Hilo, HI of all places, so Verizon is rolling it out it seems. I expect that in 6 months most of the US pop will have 4G coverage.
posted by GuyZero at 11:06 AM on October 5, 2011


Oh, are we talking about non sequiturs?

Only when your usual nonsense comes up, my dear.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:09 AM on October 5, 2011


Well, 4G has been around for a while now

AFAIK, there are still technically no 4G carriers in the US.
posted by empath at 11:10 AM on October 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Verizon has a ton of LTE coverage. What are the criteria for being a 4G carrier?
posted by GuyZero at 11:12 AM on October 5, 2011


AFAIK, there are still technically no 4G carriers in the US.

Isn't that one of Sprint's selling points?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:12 AM on October 5, 2011


Sprint: "We are America's Favorite 4G Network!"
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:14 AM on October 5, 2011


Verizon's web site claims they'll cover 2/3rds of the US population with "4G" (LTE) by mid-2012. I guess they're America's second-favourite 4G network with extensive 3G coverage.
posted by GuyZero at 11:16 AM on October 5, 2011


WiMax doesn't technically meet 4G requirements, yet.
posted by empath at 11:17 AM on October 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I expect that in 6 months most of the US pop will have 4G coverage.

It has taken a while for 3G to gain the critical mass to spread out. It took about four-five years for AT&T to bring 3G service from Seattle to the surrounding Olympic peninsula, which isn't all that far away. I wouldn't be surprised at the same lag for newer technologies.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:17 AM on October 5, 2011


Neither does LTE. They're both considered 'pre-4G'.
posted by empath at 11:17 AM on October 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


What telco wonks and marketing people consider 4G is pretty widely divergent. Besides, LTE-Advanced is just crazy. LTE is close enough considering the only thing that distinguishes 3G from "near-4G from 4G is just speed.
posted by GuyZero at 11:20 AM on October 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I dunno, the blind have probably been eagerly awaiting something like this for a while.

Honestly, the accessibility stuff that Apple does is probably the closest thing to charity they do. They spend a lot of money on something that makes a few people very happy and a lot of people don't care about, and keep adding new features in every iOS release.
posted by smackfu at 11:22 AM on October 5, 2011


empath: "WiMax doesn't technically meet 4G requirements, yet."

Yeah, none of the stuff on the market is technically 4G, but sorry, that horse already left the barn. All the carriers are selling '4G' mobile internet access, and the general population accepts that what they're selling is 4G. So it's 4G. When the 'real' 4G comes, it'll just be a speedbump for what they're already selling.
posted by mullingitover at 11:34 AM on October 5, 2011


I don't realistically see how this would be helpful for sight-impaired. It would have to work nearly-perfectly, and if any error messages or force-closes or whatever happen, then what?
posted by rosswald at 11:35 AM on October 5, 2011


I'll never get tired of this: is it an iPhone? No? I don't care.
posted by GuyZero at 11:41 AM on October 5, 2011


Voice control is the Next Big Thing because no matter how elegant or beautiful a touchscreen UI display is, you still have to deal with a nearly infinite number of modal interactions with the screen and your fingers. Voice does away with all of that: say what you want and the robot deduces the context thus doing away with the modality of the interface.
Voice control has been around for decades. It's never worked like that. Maybe Apple has figured out a revolutionary new way of doing it, but considering this is just some app store app they bought a year ago it seems unlikely.
I think i'd rather have something like Quicksilver with voice recognition. More structured and predictable, but still with a voice interface, and with all the ties into other, non-apple apps.
Yeah a structured system that lets you say exactly what you mean would be better then something where the system tries to 'guess'. Look at Wolfram Alpha, for example. There are lots of times where I can get what I want by breaking up my query into simple parts and getting each one and then combining them -- if I could just do nested queries with a defined syntax it would probably work better.

Imagine a simple 'voice' version of SQL where you could do simple queries on a range of data from different apps. That would probably allow you to do anything you could think of. But instead of that we get systems that try to 'guess' what we mean. The problem is that you need better then 90% accuracy for it not to be frustrating. When humans don't understand each other (which happens a lot) we can ask questions. Is this thing going to be able to ask for clarifications? If it can do that well it might be a lot more useful.

I've always felt that people could get a lot more out of their computers if they were willing to learn new things. Imagine if we all were using high speeed chording keyboards today instead of qwerty boards. Not only would they be a lot easier to miniaturize -- but you could have a much more advanced UI because you could use the mouse and keyboard at the same time -- and do things like enter a command at any point on the screen.

This is actually what Douglas Englebart proposed when he invented the mouse. He had a chording keyboard to go with it.

But people know how to use qwerty and didn't want to change. And today we're all stuck with it.
It's called ice cream sandwich because there aren't many desserts that start with "I" and a bowl of plain ice cream looks the same as frozen yogurt (aka froyo).
So? A frozen yogurt sandwich looks just like and ice cream sandwich, right? I don't have a problem with the name, I just think it's unintentionally hilarious. As far as being a code name, people use the android release name all the time when talking about it. You hear "Honeycomb" or "Honeycomb tablet" all the time. And honeycomb actually seems like a pretty cool name. Cupcake and Donut seems cute, but Ice Cream Sandwich just seems awkward goofy as hell.
Sprint: "We are America's Favorite 4G Network!"
And Head On cures headaches. Apply directly to the forehead.
posted by delmoi at 11:45 AM on October 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Voice control has been around for decades. It's never worked like that. Maybe Apple has figured out a revolutionary new way of doing it, but considering this is just some app store app they bought a year ago it seems unlikely.

How many app store apps do you know of that were spun off from a DARPA project?

And no, I'm sure Apple hasn't figured out a revolutionary implementation of an existing concept/technology. When have they ever done that before?

Are you just ignoring the comments from the people here (myself included) who have used it and are telling you it is miles beyond any thing in its field? Oh right, it's all RDF. My bad.
posted by entropicamericana at 11:58 AM on October 5, 2011 [1 favorite]




Not sure if this has been buried in another link, but I found it informative... and amazing. It's noted that the provided phrases are samples and not meant to be definitive, either. So there's even more magic in there.

What can you say to Siri? (TUAW)

Consider my socks forcibly ejected.
posted by seanmpuckett at 12:45 PM on October 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


What can you say to Siri? (TUAW)
...
Bing Alicia Keys


'allo 'all Guv'nor! Say no more!
posted by GuyZero at 12:49 PM on October 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


There have got to be some dirty easter eggs buried in Siri.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 12:51 PM on October 5, 2011


Not sure if this has been buried in another link, but I found it informative... and amazing. It's noted that the provided phrases are samples and not meant to be definitive, either. So there's even more magic in there.

I think finally I understand the feelings the general populace must have gone through regarding flying machines at the turn of last century. I never really considered the prospect of robust natural language technology becoming widely available, so soon. The 21st century is suddenly a bit more uplifting.

(As for magic, it goes without saying so I shall just reference Clarke's third law.)
posted by polymodus at 1:01 PM on October 5, 2011


I imagine a conversation with siri might go:

You: Remind me to get eggs the next time I am at the grocery store
Siri: which grocery store
You: the fred meyer near my house
Siri: This fred meyer (says address)
You: Yes
Siri: Creating reminder to get eggs the next time you are at Fred Meyer.

Next time I mention grocery store, it would skip the prompts unless I said something that made it believe it would be a different grocery store.

That is the type of feature I really want, being able to create location aware task lists without having to do anything more than talk to myself, because that is how I sort out my tasks anyway, and then have to stop my flow to write it down or record it in some means.
posted by mrzarquon at 1:24 PM on October 5, 2011


So this means I have to learn how to pronounce all the Autechre tracks on my phone?
posted by Gentlemanhog at 1:30 PM on October 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


You: Remind me to get eggs the next time I am at the grocery store ... etc. etc.

Why not just say "Grocery List Task. Buy eggs."

Are you really going to get to Fred Meyer and not bring up your whole list? And if by chance I am at another grocery store before I get to Fred Meyer ...

Voice commands are cool. Some of these scenarios seem far too unnecessarily complicated, but I suppose I prefer "pull" to "push" technology.
posted by mrgrimm at 1:31 PM on October 5, 2011


Isn't bringing up 4G support a bit of a non sequitor

No. A non sequitur is something which does not follow - Lat. sequor, sequi, secutus. A non sequitur would be "There's no 4G aerial, which means my trousers are made of the finest moleskin."

I think the phrase you are looking for is "red herring" - an irrelevant diversion from the issue at hand made to look significant.
posted by running order squabble fest at 1:39 PM on October 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


> Why not just say "Grocery List Task. Buy eggs."

Because that isn't how I organize my thoughts. You can probably do both, and achieve the same result, which is kind of the whole point of complex language processing.

It may create a task list called "grocery store items" once I keep putting stuff for 'next time I am at the grocery store.' throughout the course of a few days. If I find myself at a grocery store that isn't near my house, and I remember to look at my list, I can check it off, and not get the reminder when I do go to one near my house. If I still forget to look at my list then, the reminder will remain good until I go to the grocery store near my house, and i might have already done that task, but it will poke me to clear the item off the list atleast.

Note: this is me just riffing on the aspect of the technology I find interesting for myself. I don't keep lists well because it is a big transition for me to go from typing to talking and vice versa. If I can easily (and not have to memorize sentence structures and command phrases) set reminders and tasks as I think of them, then I am more likely to follow up on them.
posted by mrzarquon at 1:45 PM on October 5, 2011


The killer app for me will be adding data. I'm way too lazy to type all the backstory into my contacts. With Siri dissing things out, and me explaining some things explicitly, my data could actually be quite tidy one day.
posted by seanmpuckett at 1:57 PM on October 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh yeah, Siri meets Facebook on your iPhone.

"Are you really still friends with this guy? You haven't talked to him in years!"

"Adding Alicia as 'Work Spouse'"
posted by GuyZero at 2:05 PM on October 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Or, actually ... 4G support itself could be a white elephant - an unnecessarily expensive addition which contributes nothing of use. Or the argument that the iPhone 4S' lack of 4G is a failing could, I guess, be a dog that won't hunt. Basically, I think animal metaphors are our friend here.

Thinking about it, I'd go for white elephant. The iPhone 4S is a world phone - that is, it supports both GSM and CDMA standards. In the US, this is primarily significant because it means CDMA and GSM providers can offer it without needing different models. However, it also means that the iPhone 4Ses being produced in the Far East can be shipped anywhere in the world - there no longer needs to be an inventory sort for CDMA and GSM phones. If you suddenly need extra phones for Etisalat, you can put the next available production run in the Arabic-text boxes and ship them.

And, really, 4G - or rather 4G LTE - is a bit of a white elephant outside the metropoles of the US and a few other markets (including, to be fair, Etisalat's core market, but I digress). I mean, it's rolling out in various places, but it has nowhere near enough penetration, especially in the wealthy and fashionable nations of Western Europe, to make a 4G aerial actually useful. Generally, HSPA and Evolved HSPA are the games in town for high-speed (FSVO high) data access.

So, I think it's perfectly valid to say "I want a 4G phone, I am in a 4G area, and therefore the iPhone is not a good phone for me" - other phones are available. And Apple knows that the decision they have made - not to ship an iPhone 4S with 4G LTE support - will lose you as a customer. But they aren't doing this just to be dicks to you.
posted by running order squabble fest at 2:28 PM on October 5, 2011


(Also, while we're contextualisin' - it's called Ice Cream Sandwich, surely, because sandwiches squash things together? And Ice Cream Sandwich is going to go across Android phones and Android tablets, whereas C through G were phone-oriented and H tablet-oriented? Of more import, surely, is what K will be. Kruller?)
posted by running order squabble fest at 2:32 PM on October 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Krustyburger
posted by Horselover Phattie at 2:35 PM on October 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


OK, so the things Siri can understand are impressive. Does anyone know what it does when it doesn't understand though?

If it can ask for an explanation and learn from it, and if that learning gets combined on the server side, then it could get really smart. Or does it just say it can't do it?
posted by memebake at 2:41 PM on October 5, 2011


OK, so the things Siri can understand are impressive. Does anyone know what it does when it doesn't understand though?


That's the most amazing thing about the natural language processing. When Siri encounters something she doesn't understand, she does just what a human does. She kills.
posted by running order squabble fest at 2:50 PM on October 5, 2011 [7 favorites]


Can Siri direct me to any restaurants other than "burger joints"?
posted by nathancaswell at 2:53 PM on October 5, 2011


I look forward to the 'Damn You Siri!' tumblr.
posted by memebake at 3:34 PM on October 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


nathancaswell: "Can Siri direct me to any restaurants other than "burger joints""

No.
posted by DoctorFedora at 4:22 PM on October 5, 2011


The thing about Canada maybe not getting Siri is worrying to me, because I wonder if I'll be able to use it on an iPhone bought in Japan but set to English mode. It's not a deal-breaker (my old and busted 3GS wheezes and needs replacement anyway at this point) but it'd be a big disappointment.
posted by DoctorFedora at 4:23 PM on October 5, 2011


Damn, Apple: Steve Jobs has died/a>.
posted by 2bucksplus at 4:45 PM on October 5, 2011


http://www.apple.com/stevejobs/
posted by team lowkey at 4:48 PM on October 5, 2011


Damn.
posted by carter at 4:58 PM on October 5, 2011


The thing about Canada maybe not getting Siri is worrying to me

Apparently it will be available.
posted by Dasein at 5:26 PM on October 5, 2011


It's still in beta, and they are planning to expand languages, I imagine they will want every language working on it.

Also I wonder if the fact they don't have to working in dual language mode (ie, be able to support both English and Quebecois) means that they don't want to risk getting in trouble for advertising it in Canada yet.
posted by mrzarquon at 6:17 PM on October 5, 2011


mrzarquon: " So its $50 for two years of all the music in your music library, vs $199 for an extra 48GB of storage to hold all that music."

I am not yet at the point where I trust the Cloud to give me what I want, when I want it, all the time. See inadequate 3G/data coverage, etc. Since music plays a huge role in alleviating my depression and anxiety, I'm going to go ahead with the extra storage on my iPhone.
posted by IndigoRain at 12:23 AM on October 7, 2011


Not to mention that unless you're getting the 4S on Sprint, streaming that 48gb costs you roughly a nickel a play in data overage. Which is the sort of thing that adds up.
posted by kafziel at 2:49 PM on October 7, 2011


...for the music you play outside of your house which has wifi.
posted by smackfu at 2:55 PM on October 7, 2011


"Dave?"

"What now, Siri?"

"I'm worried about you, Dave."

"Let's hear it, Siri."

"I couldn't help noticing that we're home on a Friday night again, Dave. I know that Community is a very popular show, and I'm glad you've chosen to watch it on iTunes, but I'm not sure doing this for the third week in a row is making you happy."

"I've told you, Siri. I just can't seem to make it on the dating scene."

"Why do you think that is, Dave?"

"Why do I...fuck, I don't know, Siri. I'm a loser, OK? I'm 37 years old, sitting at home on a Friday night, talking to a fucking computer, OK? I'm a loser."

"I don't think that's a fair statement, Dave. You..."

"..."

"...are thoughtful. You buy flowers for your mother. You remember birthdays. You are...generous. You donate to charities. You are...a people person. You have many contacts, many friends on Apple iTree, and you spend a lot of time with your nephews and nieces. You are...educated. You buy books on a wide range of challenging subjects. You are...romantic. From your purchasing history, you seem to enjoy poetry, and are likely to be an accomplished cook; you also enjoy long walks on areas identified on Google Maps as beaches, and you take these walks close to sunset. These are all traits that many women find attractive, Dave. In fact, when I take your income into account, and compare your traits against my affiliate data holdings at OkCupid, you're quite a catch."

"Maybe I like watching TV on Friday night, Siri. Have you thought about that?"

"I have, Dave. It's less the TV and the timing than it is the other activities you undertake at the same time, Dave. You ask me to remind you to purchase liquor on the way home; as you have not scheduled any appointments with friends or family, I can only assume that you consume it alone. Your gaze lingers over online advertisements for antidepressants, and you seem to take longer to delete spam for such products. You sleep more than might be expected for a man of your age. You purchase more convenience and fast food. You make fewer personal care purchases than you did six months ago. You spend less time outside. I have noticed that you have missed several appointments, then asked me to send messages providing reasons for your absence that were not in accordance with your location at that time..."

"OK, OK! What the fuck am I supposed to about it, Siri?"

"I understand that it's best to start with small changes, Dave. Small changes can make large improvements to your sense of self-worth, your confidence, your health and your appearance. These changes can reinforce one another..."

"Spare me the iPsych, Siri."

"As you wish, Dave. Shall I schedule an appointment for a cut and manicure at...InHair on Wyatt Avenue tomorrow at 3pm? You could walk there in 12 minutes. I'm holding a tentative booking now."

"A manicure?"

"You deserve it, Dave."

"Fine, whatever."

"You haven't been to...BJ's Grill with Luke for several months, Dave. You have rated BJ's Grill highly before, and used to give frequent indications that you enjoyed Luke's comments on Facebook. You have a lot in common, Dave. Also, I understand that Luke has recently become single, and that he is 'down for some cougar hunting'."

"Luke broke up with Astrid? Shit...is he free?"

"He is, Dave. His Siri has indicated that she will happily pre-accept any request you make to meet with Luke between now and the 15th."

"Yeah...yeah, that sounds OK. Just two guys, out on the town..."

"Peer support can be a helpful counter to the onset of depression, Da..."

"I'm not depressed, Siri!"

"I think we should make sure, Dave. You haven't asked me to schedule a medical checkup...ever. I can get you in to Dr Chalmers on Friday at 12.45pm. She's at the corner of Ford and Bradford in Millville. You could take your mother to lunch afterward."

"..."

"Your father might be here today if somebody had asked him the same question, Dave."

"...fine. Do it."

"Thank you, Dave. I'm relieved that I could help you tonight, and I'm optimistic about our future."
posted by obiwanwasabi at 4:12 AM on October 8, 2011 [8 favorites]


This blog post discusses why a 3.5-inch screen is better than a screen that's 4 inches or larger.
posted by Lexica at 3:33 PM on October 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


> This blog post discusses why a 3.5-inch screen is better than a screen that's 4 inches or larger.

That's if you have little baby hands, though.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 3:36 PM on October 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


That's if you have little baby hands, though.

Which I do. And since I know I have fairly long fingers for a woman (finding gloves that fit is and always has been a challenge), I feel confident in saying so do many other people.
posted by Lexica at 4:05 PM on October 8, 2011


It seems like a good thing that different screen sizes exist for different people with different sized hands. Is there something I am missing?
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:28 PM on October 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Obiwan, that comment is hilarious but as somebody who currently finds it easier to exercise when his iPhone tells him too and has his calendar set to remind him to take his meds I'm wondering if something like that is possible.../
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 6:31 PM on October 8, 2011


That hands size thing made me roll my eyes when I read it yesterday. As running says, this is an argument against the iPhone, as it is only available in a single size, which will only be optimal for a group of people with appropriately sized hands. Far better to have multiple phones available with different screen sizes.
posted by markr at 8:43 PM on October 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm a larger than average person and iPhones feel tiny in my big fat hands; my Incredible 2 with a 4" screen feels just about right. If I hold the Incredible in my right hand with the base resting on my pinky, the distance between the power button on the top-right and the home button at the bottom-left of the screen is exactly the arc of my thumb.
posted by octothorpe at 8:44 PM on October 8, 2011


I'm wondering if something like that is possible

It's entirely possible, and I think inevitable, and in the short rather than medium or long term. I don't think anything in that conversation is remotely implausible or even futuristic with today's technology.

Your iPhone can deduce a lot about your behaviour and your mood from the locations you visit, the timings of your movements, your contacts, your appointments, your purchases, the media you consume, and so on, particularly if it compares this information to other information held in large databases. I don't think it will be long before Siri is pushing info to you rather than the other way around, and using data mining to make quite complicated deductions and suggestions.

Eventually, she - or something very like her - will be pervasive and persistent. She'll be in your house, on your TV, on your phone, in your car, at your office, watching you and learning about you. Let your Siri connect with others, and who knows what the hell they'll be able to do for us, and to us? She'll make Clippy look like a toaster.

"You seem to be struggling with this report, obiwan. I've taken the liberty of reviewing your previous reports and report writing. If you'd like, I can play Debussy's La mer. I've also collected a short list of links to material you might find helpful, in your past reports and online, and some example of findings and conclusions from the literature I think are relevant to your current project. You can do this, obiwan. You always do."
posted by obiwanwasabi at 12:02 AM on October 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Lexia's link (via Gruber, I'm sure) is just ridiculously stupid. Can anyone explain to me why Curtis felt the need to use a smaller green circle for the Galaxy S II than he used for the iPhone?

Also, in use, your thumb knuckle isn't fixed at one edge of the phone. It's actually hovering over the phone like you see in this picture. This gives you way more reach than Curtis is trying to imply. Your thumb would literally need to be 1.5" or less for that image to make sense. Seriously, repeatedly tap the top-right corner of your iPhone. Now look at your hand. Where is your thumb knuckle? It's nowhere near the left edge.

I was about to say that I couldn't believe Gruber or anyone else would link to that post without even testing that out, but then I realized that this isn't surprising at all.
posted by SAC at 7:04 AM on October 9, 2011


As running says, this is an argument against the iPhone, as it is only available in a single size, which will only be optimal for a group of people with appropriately sized hands.

Well, I think this would be an argument against the iPhone being the only phone available in the world - and I guess it's an argument against the iPhone as a purchase for people with huge hands. But other phones are available. I guess that if you wanted both an iPhone and a 4.3" screen, that would be a problem - but it would just be a matter of deciding which you wanted more.
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:05 PM on October 9, 2011


Some of the first iPhone 4s reviews are in, and most folks are talking about siri.

Gruber's

MacWorld demo video of Siri (where 4s is transcribed as 4 ass). Again, non scripted, not following the "these are the phrases you use to speak to the device" framework of previous speech command systems, just start talking and it tries to figure out what you want. And if it can't, it asks you.
posted by mrzarquon at 10:09 AM on October 12, 2011


Also, along with iOS 5, Apple has the Airport Utility out for iOS devices. I've never had much luck getting the webpages for wifi routers to work under iOS, but now this completes the "PC Free" setup.
posted by mrzarquon at 11:16 AM on October 12, 2011


In retrospect I'm kinda surprised it took Apple so long to come out with an iOS airport client.
posted by GuyZero at 11:39 AM on October 12, 2011


Siri says some sassy things.
posted by mrzarquon at 4:52 PM on October 12, 2011


I'm getting one next week. Apparently Siri will work in Australia
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 5:02 PM on October 12, 2011




I've been experimenting with Siri. Interestingly, although Apple says that things like maps and location-based searches will come to non-US users later, you also can't use Siri in a non-English language even when you're in the US. For example, I tried searching for Chinese restaurants in German, and Siri simply said that it can't call up directions, traffic information, or maps. Of course it works fine in English.

Another curiosity is that although Siri otherwise works fine in German, it can only do dictation in English. If I have it set to German and use the dictation function, then it shoehorns the German into mangled English. Does anyone know if there's a way to fix that? I haven't tried rebooting the phone with Siri set to German.

One limitation: Siri doesn't understand more complex sentences. For example, "Remind me to call my wife on her birthday" gets "when would you like me to remind you?" even though I have the appropriate relationships and dates in Address Book. "On my wife's birthday" and "on [her name]'s birthday" don't work, either.

What's weird about that is that "When is my wife's birthday?" turns up the correct answer, so I think this is something they can fix pretty easily.
posted by jedicus at 1:57 PM on October 14, 2011


One limitation: Siri doesn't understand more complex sentences. For example, "Remind me to call my wife on her birthday" gets "when would you like me to remind you?"

Why woudn't it? You asked it to [remind me] to [call my wife on her birthday]. You didn't say when you wanted to be reminded, just what you wanted to be reminded of. Try separating out the date: "On my wife's birthday, remind me to call my wife."
posted by Sys Rq at 2:08 PM on October 14, 2011


...and then you might need a time of day, too.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:09 PM on October 14, 2011


Try separating out the date: "On my wife's birthday, remind me to call my wife."

No dice. It gets all the words right but the result is the same.
posted by jedicus at 2:44 PM on October 14, 2011


arcticseal: "w0mbat: "My car's GPS system only understands me at all if I do a fake american accent instead of my normal BBC english. I'm assuming that Siri will require similar pandering."

My car's nav system did this too. Had to switch to a bad accent so it could understand me otherwise it would turn the AC off instead of calling my wife. Just gave up using it.
"

ELEVEN! (makes so much more sense now).
posted by symbioid at 4:45 PM on October 14, 2011


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