Sometimes it’s hard to be Apple’s Siri

It’s hard to be Apple’s virtual assistant because lots of people complain about what you do, even when you’re actually quite good at lots of things, recent data shows.

Apple, Siri, iOS, iPhone, HomePod, virtual assistants

Virtual assistants are destined to do much more than send memos, capture shopping lists or tell cheesy jokes — they will become one of the primary ways we interact with the ambient AI that will surround every part of our lives in the not-too-distant future.

That’s what Apple’s Steve Jobs saw in these technologies way back when he relentlessly pursued the purchase of Siri. He saw the potential of the interface to enable new platforms.

“[He] later convinced us that he understood our vision, that he wouldn't just make Siri a tiny feature but something core to Apple's strategy across multiple devices, and that we could impact the world more as part of Apple than as an independent company,” Adam Cheyer, the co-founder of Siri, explained earlier this year.

Virtual assistants smack down

With so much at stake, public image means a whole lot, and that’s why I found it so interesting to take a look at a recent virtual assistant customer satisfaction study from CBT Nuggets.

They asked 500 people to rate their experience of using Siri, Cortana, Google Now, Google Home and Alexa for various tasks and in different situations. While the results suggest that each assistant has its own strengths and weaknesses, they also who that Siri is a peer player in the space.

“Google Now and Siri competed for a lot of rankings, including voice recognition, response in a noisy environment, dictating messages and playing music,” the survey authors said.

Overall, despite all the mockery Apple’s virtual assistant has to endure, Siri delivered the highest percentage of perfectly completed device responses in both quiet and noisy environments. It gets it right 70 percent of the time overall (better than the others, though still with plenty of space to improve). That segment of non-achievement helps drive criticism — or “gifts to help you change,” as a positive-minded project manager might say.

CBT Nuggets virtual assistant survey results

Overall, Siri achieved a 65 percent satisfaction rate, while 59 percent of participants were satisfied with the voice recognition of Google Now, followed by Cortana’s 46 percent satisfaction rate.

This suggests that while consumers have their favorites, the truth is that the difference between the two most commonly-used smartphone virtual assistants is actually rather slight.

Not only that, but Siri is best for making verbal commands on the go.

  • Overall satisfaction score:
  1. Siri: 65%
  2. Google Now: 59%
  3. Cortana: 46%
  • In a noisy space
  1. Siri: 63%
  2. Google Now: 55%
  3. Cortana: 44%
  • In a quiet place
  1. Siri: 68%
  2. Google Now: 64%
  3. Cortana: 47%

These results suggest Siri to be the best virtual assistant when it comes to making verbal commands when on the move — so getting a Map, taking a call and so on.

In fact, the data shows Siri in the top two (of five) places across eight of 10 tasks when transacting those tasks in a quiet space, and in nine of 10 tasks when doing those tasks in a noisy place.

All about the music

Apple’s music teams will need to address the big criticism. Siri had more difficulty finding a specific music track by an artist in both noisy and quiet environments than other assistants. This was its weakest feature in the tests, and I fear the [delayed] HomePod team will be disappointed that Alexa was best at that. I imagine this is a situation that will be changed.

One more thing: 82 percent of users like Siri’s little jokes/easter eggs. Try: “Siri tell me a story,” for example.

Do you use Siri as often as you expected? What's your favorite feature? And your worst? Please let me know.

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Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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