No. of Recommendations: 12
So at Thanksgiving dinner yesterday, one of the guests had a new iPhone with Siri. And another guest has never heard of Siri and asks for a demo.

Cue the fun.

Imagine a dozen people sitting around the dinner table, passing an iPhone around and taking turns asking the phone the first thing that comes to mind. Add a glass or two of wine to some of the adults. It was the best entertainment we've had at a dinner at Grandma's house in quite a while.

I also learned a lot about working with Siri in the real world. Siri is occasionally brilliant, and occasionally pretty stupid. There was a fair amount of background noise, so Siri often had trouble understanding voices. It probably didn't help that the voice was constantly changing as the phone was passed around.

Given the event, the word "turkey" showed up quite often. No matter the context of the question, Siri always interpreted "turkey" as the country and not the bird. Even a question like "How many wings does a turkey have?" elicited a response that I don't have maps of Turkey.

Surprisingly, she had no problems understanding one guest who was from Scotland and had an accent (not a heavy brogue, just an accent). No problems aside from the background noise, anyway. Siri couldn't handle Japanese, though. Probably would take some setting change to switch languages.

It was absolutely brilliant the way Siri responded in reasonably natural language. And the ability to deal in context was excellent. "What is my schedule for tomorrow?" followed by "What is my schedule for the next day?" was handled well.

Names were a bit of a problem. Particularly when dealing with our family, where most of the guests shared a last name and there is noticeable overlap of first and middle names. For example, one contact in the phone was Bob Smith and another Billy Bob Smith. Siri would ask which Bob Smith you wanted, but couldn't get to Bob Smith instead of Billy Bob Smith.

Siri also has an attitude and recognizes humor. Say "knock, knock" and she'll start up on a knock knock joke. Ask her to close the pod bay doors, and you'll be reported to some official sounding agency. Ask for personal information or opinion, and you'll get interesting responses.

At some point, I ended up pulling out my iPod Touch and comparing Dragon Go! to Siri. For pure information searches - stuff you'd look up on the internet - Dragon Go! was probably better. Siri tries perhaps a bit too hard to narrow down the results. Dragon Go! leaves you multiple options and search results, letting you do some filtering yourself. But get to any personal info stored on your iPhone, and Siri is the clear winner. Dragon can't even access that info.

My take away is that Siri - like most attempts at voice recognition - is startling in it's ability, but only to a point. Given the right listening circumstances (i.e. quiet enough) and Siri does very well indeed. But enough background noise brings Siri to a halt (occasionally a very humorous halt!) long before a human listener has any problems at all. Think of her hearing abilities like your old Aunt Edna's. Both are smart, witty, insightful, and a bit hard of hearing. They both work better one-on-one rather than in a crowd.

--Peter
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