Wednesday, October 12, 2011


John Gruber:

The best sign I can think of regarding Siri’s practical utility: after a week of using this test iPhone 4S, yesterday, while using my regular iPhone 4, without thinking I held down the home button to create a new reminder for myself, and when the old Voice Control interface appeared, my mind went blank for a few seconds while I pondered what went wrong. I missed Siri already.

Siri demos well, but these things never seem to live up to expectations. It’s encouraging that reviewers seem to be finding it useful in the real world.

The number one thing I’d want to do with Siri is create new tasks in OmniFocus. So far it only works with the built-in Apple apps, though.

And, more broadly, it’s heavily tied into the OS. On the Mac, there have been various third-party dictation and voice control products that could pretty much do what they wanted. They went way beyond the OS’s built-in speech recognition features. On iOS, only Apple is allowed to try to make something with the scope of Siri. So you’ve got to hope that Apple has the best voice recognition engine, the best AI, and a plan for future improvement and extensibility. You can’t replace or adjust any of these components except by switching to different hardware and a different OS. Of course, it looks like Apple is currently in the lead, so to most this will not seem like a pressing concern.

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Just like you can't replace Notification Center, Springboard, the Dock, the Finder, etc, etc.

You can still get third-party apps (even original Siri until this week), and they will have all of the OS access than an App gets. You don't get full platform integration unless it's part of the platform.

@Joshua There is a difference of degrees. You can’t write Mac apps that do everything the Finder and Dock do, and that’s a shame, but you can get close. “Replacement” apps do exist and are popular.

A replacement Siri app would be incredibly limited. To start with, you would not be able to invoke it via the home button or holding the phone to your ear. And that’s assuming that it would even be allowed going forward.

Have you figured out how to use the location-aware reminders in OmniFocus? I figured out that you assign locations to contexts. I created a "Home" context, added it's location, turned on "When Arriving", and the created a reminder with that context.

When I got home, though, it didn't alert me.

I'm hoping that the location-awareness doesn't simply make the tasks "active" when in that area. If I have to remember to check my "Home" context at home, that would seem to defeat the purpose.

Hope I'm missing something...

(Aside from that, as soon as I enabled the location-aware context, my battery started draining quickly...)

@Matt Nope. The location-aware reminders are a fun idea, but they didn’t seem like they’d actually be useful for me, so I didn’t set them up.

I agree with you, but I think the problem is that Siri, at least looking from the outside, looks like it responds to very open ended questions. We'd need some way to set a preference to direct certain queries to certain applications. I would hope that Apple could give us a way to do this, but that might be the difficult part.

Wait, what?

So suddenly you're upset that something cool that you were not missing before Apple unveiled it because you didn't think of it cannot be provided by someone else? What's next? Should Apple let you install other OSes on its hardware?

@Ölbaum Actually, I’ve been wanting this (the voice input, not so much the AI) since day one. And it’s also been clear since then that there were various other input methods that developers wanted to provide but couldn’t.

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