Categories
Business Tech

Ideas and Improvements for Apple’s Siri

Siri, the personal digital assistant
Siri, the personal digital assistant

Recently I’ve been quite interested in Apple’s Siri, ever since I received my iPhone 4S and watching the WWDC Developer’s conference. At first I thought it was just a novelty, but upon seeing the upcoming features in iOS 6, my interest has been heightened. I’m interested in machine learning, AI, UI design, and aggregating content, as I’ve tried to do before. See: History of speech AI and How Siri works.

Concept and Functionality
Siri is essentially a search / AI engine thats powered by the voice.

The original Siri application relied upon a number of partners, including:
OpenTable, Gayot, CitySearch, BooRah, Yelp, Yahoo Local, ReserveTravel, Localeze for restaurant and business questions and actions;
Eventful, StubHub, and LiveKick for events and concert information;
MovieTickets, Rotten Tomatoes, and the New York Times for movie information and reviews;
Bing Answers and Wolfram Alpha for factual question answering;
Bing, Yahoo, and Google for web search.
Apple integrated it with default iOS functionality, such as contacts, calendars and text messages. It also supports search from Google, Bing, Yahoo, Wolfram Alpha and Wikipedia. Siri also works with Google Maps and Yelp! search in the United States only.

Context specific service searching
What I would like to see is Siri searching certain services depending on what keywords are being said. For example, if I say a query such as “What is the Earth’s circumference?” or “What is the area of a circle?” then it should direct me to Wolfram Alpha because Siri recognizes these queries as mathematical questions.
Asking about the news should take me to the New York Times, CNN or maybe show me some blog posts, tweets, etc.
Famous persons or companies can take me to their wikipedia page, twitter page, facebook page and website.
If I asked a knowledge question such as “Who was Rene Descartes?” or “Who invented basketball?” then it should direct me to a Wikipedia article or Yahoo/Bing Answers page. Location queries should pull up Google (or soon Apple) Maps.
Programming questions should take me to StackOverflow or some related forums.
Food queries will pull up Yelp and OpenTable to make a reservation and read reviews.
Asking about travel should pull up Priceline/Expedia/Kayak and TripAdvisor.
Movie based queries should take me to Fandango and Rottentomatoes, concert tickets to TicketMaster and event tickets to EventBrite.
Job related queries can take me to LinkedIn or Glassdoor.
In short, Siri should link all these Web 2.0 companies (that all have an API) together. Its the ultimate content aggregator.

update:
I think it would be better if you said the name of the service that you want Siri to pull from if there’s multiple sources.
So for example, if I were to say “Java, Wikipedia” – then Siri would pull from Wikipedia. But “Java, Google” would just do a google search,
and “Java, Stack Overflow” would search stack overflow for the keyword. This would make it easy and intuitive for Siri to bring up the correct response.

Integration with web and OS X
How about having Siri come to Macs and PCs? How about having Siri be accessible as a web application running on the cloud? Almost all computers come with microphones, so why not? I see the advantage of making Siri exclusive to iOS but soon I think Apple should make it widely available.

Text input
The main problem with me using Siri is that it looks awkward when I’m talking to it in a public place, or using it at a meeting can be distracting. So Siri should take text input to fix that. I’m sure some Java parser in the backend is translating natural speech into strings anyway, so it shouldn’t be too hard to make a text based option.

Expanding services
Siri should be able to integrate with countless Web 2.0 services. And it should be locale specific. If I’m in China, then Siri should integrate with Baidu, QQ, Sina, etc. If I’m looking for a deal, then Siri can pull up Groupon. Point is, Siri can be the glue that ties all these services together. And maybe pulling up Youtube when I’m looking for a funny cat video or something. Perhaps Siri can learn from users in general, in context, and know what to say in response depending on what other users have said to it (a la Cleverbot).

Social integration and Ad delivery
Siri now provides Apple with the same data as Facebook. It can learn about a user’s behavior, their location, their preferences, their hobbies, etc. Anything about a user can be learnt through Siri, so now Apple can do anything and everything that Facebook can do, including delivering targeted ads. If Siri knows you’ve been going to mexican restaurants lately, maybe it can show you an ad from another mexican restaurant nearby. Or maybe suggest you to buy Star Wars from iTunes or Netflix if you’ve been watching sci-fi movies lately. Or maybe show some ads from ESPN if you’ve been watching or asking about sports alot. Or direct me to the iTunes store for Usher’s new album or concert if I’ve been listening to a lot of his songs. Since Siri knows everything about you, it can be the ultimate ad and content delivery vessel.

Better Multilingual support and Translation
Siri will integrate with over 15 languages with iOS 6, so I would like to see quality recognition for different dialects and accents, particularly for Asian languages. And this would probably require a lot of native speakers and language specialists, but I think if Siri can do this well, then it could also be the best translator (by storing speech patterns and tonal variance). We all know Google Translate sucks for Asian languages, so I’m sure Apple can do it better!

Now that Siri is multilingual and will integrate with car manufacturers soon (potentially replacing navigation), I see lots of potential with it in the future. It has the possibility of overshadowing Google or Facebook, since it both searches by voice, and retains user information. So these are just some of my ideas for future improvements from Siri, but where it goes remains to be seen.

Categories
Business Programming Tech

The Digital Revolution

Firstly, this post is designed as a way to show off my Piclens slideshow capabilities so the amount of images present may be more than my previous posts.

Today, I’d like to talk to you (dear readers and stalkers of my blog) about an important issue in society today. We are experiencing, or perhaps in the midst of, a digital revolution, started in the 1980s and continuing through the present. Like the industrial revolution before it, this revolution has social, political, economic, military and industrial impact. Therefore as soldiers of the digital revolution, our first step would be to familiarize ourselves with the technology.

Cloud Computing

How it works
How it works
Web 2.0 tree
Web 2.0 tree
Software as a service
Software as a service

The first trend I want to talk about is the notion of cloud computing.
Cloud computing is the concept of computing in a cloud – that is, the need for desktop applications is reduced to the concept of computing inside web applications. It combines the trends of software as a service and Web 2.0 in order to provide the needs of “anytime,anywhere” computing to everyone who has access to the internet. This development is another example of tying together other technological trends which I will explain further.

Knowledge anytime anywhere
Knowledge anytime anywhere

Social networking and media sharing

We live in an age where unprecedented access to information has become commonplace, where a person with no access to any books or institutions but can still obtain knowledge via the internet. This is vastly different then what we had 20 years ago and it is one of the most striking amenities of the digital revolution.

Blogs gives us unprecedented information on other people's lives
Blogs gives us unprecedented information on other people's lives
WoW, the largest MMORPG
WoW, the largest MMORPG

The propagation of social networking allows us to be connected to people all around the world, giving us a constant source of contact and with it, its good and ills. In a way, this proliferation of constant networking gives us citizens a deprivation of privacy but also a good platform for our social agendas. Even games allow us to network with others and to escape to a different life online, separate and distinct from our real lives, perhaps out of a need for social interaction or a need to have fun. Regardless, the social web is everywhere and it is hard to not be caught in it.

Youtube allows sharing of videos
Youtube allows sharing of videos
Flickr allows sharing of photos
Flickr allows sharing of photos

In addition, the advent of these web trends and techniques allows us to view photos, art,audio and video like never before. New sources of inspiration exist for users worldwide. The importance of ideas such as web, media and technological convergence is thus an important goal for the future. I will take a look at more of these devices later in this post, but take note that devices aside, all we need is a browser in order to enjoy the fruit of web convergence’s labors.

Twitter allows us to constantly notify others of our status
Twitter allows us to constantly notify others of our status
Facebook is the largest social networking site in the world
Facebook is the largest social networking site in the world

We as people, also have the right to refuse the invasion of our privacy for social purposes. But in this ever more interdependent world, are we losing contact with the outside world? Are games and social networking and MSN distracting us from the pressures of real life? Are we pressured to adopt the new trends of the time in order to stay ahead?
I think as this revolution sweeps over everyone, we have the urge to always stay ahead with new technology concepts.

Integration with real life

Ebay, The largest online auction site in the world
Ebay, The largest online auction site in the world
Amazon, the largest online retailer
Amazon, the largest online retailer

The extent of how online services affects us extends to our daily needs. Shopping online is now considered as a normal alternative to shopping at a brick and mortar retailer. Online matching making and sites such as craigslist blurs the online and offline way of interacting in a way that we have never seen before. Imagine that not so long ago, computers were limited to those with a high income and now it permeates our lifestyle where ever we go.

Open source development and hardware

Drupal is an open source CMS
Drupal is an open source CMS
Joomla!, another open  source CMS
Joomla!, another open source CMS

So as we struggle to stay ahead of all these new innovations, developers such as myself will also have to learn new web programming techniques. This is also facilitated by new Open source software development, new web programming tools such as AJAX and Ruby on Rails, and new CMSs such as the one on this website. Even development methodologies such as Agile has been used to take advantage of fast-paced development. These new trends allow developers, alongside consumers to develop new tools to establish this notion of cloud computing and web convergence.

Wordpress powers this blog
Wordpress powers this blog
PHP and MySQL work well together as web 2.0 tools
PHP and MySQL work well together as web 2.0 tools

But as we move forward, we take notes from the tools of past so we can better serve the people of the future. These new tools for web programming, that allow developers to serve the consumers, must evolve as the trends evolve. But as I will explain further, this evolutionary process is not only for the web, but extends to the whole of this digital revolution.

Ruby on rails is a popular web 2.0 application framework
Ruby on rails is a popular web 2.0 application framework
The iphone which started the multitouch trend
The iphone which started the multitouch trend

New trends in hardware often follow the software. The advent of Multi-touch computing is evolving, with many mobile phones and now tablet pc’s taking advantage of this trend. Hand-in-hand we must also consider the development of multi-touch applications to go along with it. Existing Frameworks for it have already been developed. One area of development must fuel the other.

Netbooks are also a prominent computing trend
Netbooks are also a prominent computing trend

We can also see the power of PCs grow exponentially over time, as predicted by Moore’s law. The evolution of all this should lead us to believe that in a few years time, the supercomputers of today will be the laptops and PCs of tomorrow. Such is the rate of technology that a brand new device would be rendered obsolete in a matter of weeks. Such is the convergence of technology that the smartphones of today were the PCs of yesterday, and even simple devices such as mp3 players can double as clocks and calculators. Such is the importance of internet to our daily lives that pocket-sized computers, tablets, and miniature laptops called netbooks (all with GPS functionality) were designed primarily to access the internet anywhere where there’s a wireless or cellular (3G) reception.

The web as we know it, dominated by applications
The web as we know it, dominated by applications

So looking from that standpoint, one must wonder when the digital revolution will end? Perhaps it never will, since over the past century, developments such as the automobile, airplanes, telephones, TVs, electric appliances and the PC which came about in only the last 20 years have come at a staggering pace in comparison to the previous centuries. Therefore, to wrap up this discussion, I think the question of “What’s the next big trend?” is not as important as “What trends will be the most influential and the most lasting?”, because just because a trend is big doesn’t guarantee it a status in this ever changing world. It’s the trends that have the most lasting consequences, the ones which act as ‘milestones’ in this digital revolution, that will shape the trends after it. So I encourage everyone to take part in computer science and software design and be a part of it, because although this field is constantly evolving, the rewards for experiencing the future are much greater. Thank you.