Friday, May 22, 2020

What Time Is It in London, Siri?

John Gruber:

Nilay Patel asked this of Siri on his Apple Watch. After too long of a wait, he got the correct answer — for London Canada. I tried on my iPhone and got the same result. Stupid and slow is heck of a combination.


Worse, I tried on my HomePod and Siri gave me the correct answer: the time in London England. I say this is worse because it exemplifies how inconsistent Siri is. Why in the world would you get a completely different answer to a very simple question based solely on which device answers your question? At least when most computer systems are wrong they’re consistently wrong.

I would certainly appreciate better smarts from Siri, but the main problems I consistently have are:

After nearly 9 years, I don’t expect a perfect AI, but the basic stuff should be reliable.

Nick Heer:

What bugged me most about this, though, is that searching Maps locations through Siri and by keyboard entry frequently requires an unnecessary amount of precision. For years, getting directions to the Ikea location here in Calgary required typing “Ikea Calgary, Alberta”, otherwise it would consistently get directions to Ikea in Edmonton, about three hours away. Apple has fixed that now, but there are plenty of other times where it has directed me to similarly-named pizza joints and dry cleaners in the southern United States instead of mere blocks away. Why is Siri so eager to prioritize proximity for a query that is about time difference by distance, yet Maps search reliably thinks I want to travel many hours to get furniture or dinner?

Most egregious to me was that time, earlier this year, when Siri suggested an inconceivable day-long road trip instead of a route to my office. It got every possible aspect wrong of something I do with scheduled regularity.

Dr. Drang:

The interesting difference between my 2016 experience and John Gruber’s and Nilay Patel’s 2020 experiences is that I did want the nearest city with the name I gave. It’s fun to see the wide variety of ways in which Siri manages to choose the worthless answer, but we really should have a better assistant by now.


6 Comments RSS · Twitter

I had a similar experience with this a while back:

In my case, I would have settled for choosing either the closest or the most famous one, which were one and the same in this case. Somehow I got 8 suggestions that were neither.

another one — my HomePod fails SOME of the time with SOME of my Hue lights, with a long pause and a long winded error message. my fallback is Siri on my watch, same appleid same household, ALWAYS works for the lights that HomePod sometimes decides it can’t talk to.

The issue I have had with Siri is when I ask it to call someone, or randomly picks some other contact to call. Typically someone from a professional context whom I DO NOT want to call. Like my boss.

@Tim That has happened to me, too. It seems to pick someone whose name starts with a different letter and has a different number of syllables. Bizarre.

I have the impression that Siri, probably like most such systems, fail to admit that they may need a _dialog_, where the recipient _can_ confirm that it understands what was requested. Or can Siri do that, it's just not done well enough?

(I don't use Siri exactly because I'm afraid it'll misunderstand me and do something I didn't mean).

I never use Siri beyond a basic request to "Remind me to do X at Y time" because every time I decide to try to trust it and hope it's gotten better after all these years, it always ends up failing me more often than not. Either it spits out wrong data, doesn't do exactly what I want, or fails with some sort of error where it can't connect or just doesn't respond (as Michael mentioned -- and my internet connection is fine). Not to mention I've reported a serious Siri bug to Apple during every major iOS release since iOS 8 and they won't fix it. This "London" fiasco is just a reminder and validation that they really don't care about getting it right. Isn't this the kind of BS that Steve Jobs used to get furious about?

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