Voice-activated commands don’t always work. In fact, because of that simple fact, it’s not something that has entered the mainstream. I recently went to the grocery store and noticed multiple people tapping away on their iPhones, but none of them were dictating a text message or even asking Siri about movie showtimes, even though both of those activities work fine (for the most part). If you talk to your phone in public and it doesn’t work, you look stupid. It’s hard to pretend your phone understands you when it doesn’t. (Insert a joke about marriage here.)
That all changes in the privacy of your own home and at the office. I tend to talk to my phone more. I’ve experimented with a British accent, asked Siri about weird Alfred Hitchcock movies, and engaged in conversations with Google Now, which seems to understand context. (Try it for yourself sometime — you can ask about your favorite sports team, then say “who is the catche?r” and you will get the right answer.) At work, in the privacy of my office, I also use Google Now, and I just started dictating articles using the Voice Typing feature in Google Docs.
Next week, Apple is holding yet another event, but the one big surprise won’t be another new iPhone or a larger iPad; it will have something to do with Siri. (The event is called Hey, Siri — which is probably a pretty good leading indicator about what Apple will announce.) My guess is that a new Apple TV will include voice activation and search by voice features. You’ll be able to ask about a movie star and then watch his or her latest film, or maybe perform searches and ask questions.
I hope they go even further. I want Siri to become more of a virtual assistant who can actually call people for you and let them know you are running late for a meeting or maybe arrange the meeting and call everyone to let them know the dial-in number. I want Siri to work the same on a MacBook, the iPhone and Apple TV. And searching should be more of a conversation, not just a way to avoid having to type a search phrase. My guess is that Apple has grand ambitions to take on Facebook and Google in this game of making voice work better in the home, at the office and on the go. (Facebook just threw a very large hat in the ring with the M robot in its mobile messaging client.)
I also want Siri to help more with productivity. On my phone, I’d like to dictate a long email and have it actually work — saving my fingers and my sanity. We are squinting at small screens all day, so voice really adds a new dimension to making us get more done.
But what if Apple just went all crazy on us? What would that look like? What if Siri became the true robotic aid we all want? I imagine being able to adjust anything in my car by voice, including the radio and maybe even my speed. (Automakers already use Siri Eyes Free for some in-car commands.) I imagine being able to say “Hello, Siri” at home and lower the temperature and enable the front door alarm system. I’m guessing some of these features might be built into the new Apple TV.
Yet true ubiquitous voice control isn’t something that’s tied to my phone or my living room entertainment system. It should be hard-wired into the car, not an app. If you say “Hey, Siri” in a BMW, it should just pick up on that command. Homes should be configured to respond to voice from any room, not just when the Apple TV is turned on.
I doubt Siri will have this much power. But here’s hoping.
This article is published as part of the IDG Contributor Network. Want to Join?