A woman asks her iPhone “Is it going to be chilly in San Francisco this weekend?” and her iPhone responds with the weather forecast. When she says “What about Napa Valley?” the iPhone understands that her query was in relation to the previous one, and replies with a computerized voice, “Doesn’t seem like it; it won’t get below 68° in Napa.”
A blind woman listens to text messages on her iPhone and dictates her own, and they are automatically converted into text and sent to the intended recipients.
While cooking, a woman asks, “How many cups are in 12 ounces?”The iPhone replies, “Let me think,” apparently searches the web, and displays a set of measurement conversions. She then tells the iPhone to “Set the timer for 30 minutes” and it does so.
These are not the Imaginations of a science fiction writer. Indeed, these features are all available in the new iPhone 4S from Apple.
The iPhone is the best-selling smart phone in the world, and many people were wondering how Apple could make it better. Of course, one option is to make it bigger to allow for a larger screen, but that runs the risk of making it awkward to carry. Short of a pair of eyeglasses that beam images directly into the user’s retinas, as futurist Ray Kurzweil has predicted, there’s not a lot one can do to make the screen image of a mobile phone appear bigger without making the device approach the dimensions of an iPad.
The obvious alternative was to make the interface of the device smarter (which also follows Kurzweil’s projections). Apple has chosen this option by integrating an intelligent agent, called Siri, directly into the iPhone’s operating system.
A video on Apple’s iPhone website shows a jogger issuing plain English commands such as “Read me the message” into the iPhone’s microphone and replying with his own dictated message.
While in his car, a man says “What’s the traffic like around here?” and the iPhone responds by displaying a map of the current traffic. He then says “Text my wife; I’m going to be 30 minutes late,” and the iPhone complies.
A video provided by Apple shows a woman asking about restaurants in her area, and the iPhone bringing up a list of those that fit her criteria. According to Scott Forstall, Senior Vice President of IOS software, the iPhone represents a whole new way of interacting with a phone, using just your voice.
Forstall says that the iPhone can also accomplish tasks for you. In the Apple video, a man tells the iPhone through a microphone embedded in his earphones to move his meeting with an associate to 12 o’clock. The iPhone replies that he already has a meeting scheduled at that time and asks if he would like to schedule it anyway. He merely says “Move it to two” and it does so.
In the video, a man, while driving, asks the iPhone to “Read me my text” and the iPhone complies. To reply to a message, he says the word ”
reply” and dictates his message. Then he tells the iPhone to “Remind me to grab the present when I get home” and the device, thanks to its built-in GPS receiver, flashes a reminder as he pulls into his driveway.
It’s an impressive demonstration, and whether it works as well as implied by the video will be up to millions of consumers to judge.
Heavily promoting such a feature is a bit of a risk for Apple. The company was stung decades ago by another “intelligent” feature, handwriting recognition on its Newton MessagePad. Even though handwriting recognition worked better on the MessagePad than that found on similar devices by other companies, comedians ridiculed the tendency of the device to get things wrong, making it a laughingstock.
More recently, the iPhone was panned for its tendency to lose its cell phone reception when held in a certain way (the newest iPhone is able to intelligently switch between two internal antennas for the best reception).
Companies like Google some time ago introduced apps that are able to respond to vocal commands, but never before has such a feature been so flexible, intelligent and tightly integrated into a smart phone’s operating system. It’s a groundbreaking advancement, but it comes at considerable risk to Apple’s—and the iPhone’s—credibility.
However, without bold risk-taking there are no grand successes, and if any company can pull this feature off, it is likely to be Apple.
Author: Tim Arends is the webmaster of http://internetmacmarketing.com and covers everything you need to know about running your Internet business and promoting your website using a Mac, iPhone and iPad. You can read more about the iPad at http://www.squidoo.com/myappleipad.