Siri is the digital assistant that you'll find across the Apple ecosystem, from iPhone and iPad to Apple Watch, HomePods and AirPods Pro 2. And according to a new report in the New York Times he, she or they are about to get a whole lot smarter.
The article says that Apple is currently testing "generative AI concepts" that use similar technology to the ChatGPT tech that's currently hogging the headlines. And that tech, the article also says, has made it clear just how "clunky" Siri's code is. According to former Apple engineer John Burkey, who has first-hand knowledge of Siri's underlying tech, Siri is built on "clunky code that took weeks to update with basic features."
What's wrong with Siri?
According to the NYT, quite a bit. The design is "cumbersome" and its database contains a massive list of phrases in almost two dozen languages, making it quite the resource hog – and even simple things such as adding new phrases means rebuilding the entire Siri database, a process that can take over a month. Which is roughly how long it takes Siri to respond to many of my voice commands.
The NYT doesn't pull its punches: the article headline is "How Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant lost the AI Race". But it does say that Apple is re-evaluating its whole AI approach now that ChatGPT and similar technologies are leaving existing personal digital assistants in the dust.
I'm torn here, because I've written many times about Siri's flaws – but just today I got ChatGPT to write an article about somebody and with the exception of their name, which it got right (because it was there in the initial query) everything it produced was absolute nonsense with no relation to reality. Producing nonsense with great confidence doesn't seem very intelligent to me, artificially or otherwise, and a Siri that can do more things faster, but badly, doesn't really appeal. But there's no doubt that Siri desperately needs a shake-up.
If you'd like to see Siri on your iPhone, you don't need to wait: there's a shortcut that can add it to your device, enabling it to answer queries on demand. You can find out how to add it and use it here.