At long last, Apple’s virtual assistant Siri is getting some much needed upgrades, after an unprecedented amount of engineering resource was piled onto the project by the global tech leader. All existing functionality will remain, but a number of key upgrades will be put in place following today’s announcements at the annual Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC).
The most important upgrade relates to the voice. Siri’s traditional robotic female voice will be upgraded to include male and female options that sound far more like an actual human rather than a computer-generated version of one.
Siri will now be able to do something called, “on device learning,” which means that she, or he, will recommend other websites you may be interested in, and suggest responses to text messages and social media posts.
Perhaps the most highly anticipated addition will be the instant translation service, which will enable direct conversation between two different languages using an iPhone. Basically, you hold up your phone to someone speaking Spanish, and it is translated into English instantly. Meanwhile, the Spanish speaker is doing the same to you and voilà; you have a real-time bilingual conversation.
These additional features are part of Apple’s Internet of Things strategy and come in partnership with the new Apple speaker which is designed for maximum sound and interactivity with Siri. Importantly, executives were quick to point out that Apple will not be monetising Siri, and have taken extra security precautions to ensure a low chance of breaches across the system. With Siri now being able to interact across multiple devices, the concern was that she, or he, would be a potential open door for hackers. In other words, if you break into one device using Siri, you automatically have access to the laptop, desktop, mobile, and home security system. Through maintaining advertising protocol outside of the Siri system, Apple has reduced the chance of any backdoors being manipulated by hackers.
Siri, along with the iOS upgrade were perhaps the major talking points of WWDC so far. Apple fans are no doubt hoping that these upgrades and additions will increase functionality, and make the overall Apple solution a more exciting and appealing option that it has been (as compared to Microsoft) over the last few years. However, the response from attendees and industry pundits have been far from gratifying, and aside from moments of excitement – Siri being one of them – few are raving about WWDC. Of course, the absence of details regarding the iPhone 10th anniversary edition was perhaps part of the reason for that, with expectations managed terribly in the buildup and absolutely nothing said about it during the entire event.