We all need an assistant. The more intelligent, the better.
In addition to the announcement and news around the soon-to-be-introduced in iPhone 4S, this week’s conference gave us a deeper view into how Siri – the technology Apple quietly (and cleverly) acquired last year — plays in a bigger ambition to deliver us suggestions, recommendations and assistance on our mobile devices. Apple’s Siri is marketed as the smart helper that gets things done. All we have to do is ask.
Think of Siri as an electronic concierge and virtual assistant at our call 24/7. No job interviews, hourly wages or background checks before we take Siri into our employ. Siri is trusted and smart — equipped to manage our lives as if she came right out of Harvard or Oxford. Or so we’re told.
According to Apple, Siri understands context and natural language. No need to tailor how you talk to match a machine. Imagine you ask Siri: “Will I need an umbrella this weekend?” Siri understands you are really looking for a weather forecast.
Apple also tells us that Siri — like any capable and qualified assistant — is knowledgeable about using the personal information we allow it to access. For example, if you tell Siri: “Remind me to call Mom when I get home,” it can find “Mom” in your address book and carry out the task. Ask Siri “What’s the traffic like around here?” and it can figure out where “here” is based on your current location, data communicated by the GPS capability in the device.
And the list goes on. Siri supposedly helps you make calls, send text messages or email, schedule meetings and reminders, make notes, search the Internet, find local businesses, and get directions. You can also get answers, find facts and even perform complex calculations — all this just by asking Siri.
There are obvious benefits to having an electronic concierge to help us manage our lives and work – if the technology works, of course. However, voice recognition is not entirely suited to how we live our lives. There are times when you can’t speak out loud (in class or during a play to name two). And let’s not forget that voice recognition has been inexact for years, especially in loud places where the technology often can’t distinguish one voice or noise from another.
But, for the sake of argument, let’s imagine that Siri does exactly what Apple says it can. There are huge implications for brands when our personal devices are equipped with personal digital assistants. Are companies going to continue to pay for an ad in a Google query if a mobile subscriber can bypass traditional keyword search altogether by just asking their new and knowledgeable pal, Siri? Will advertisers still sponsor the traffic alerts if Siri can tell their customers all they need to know?
On the positive side, the concierge concept could deliver marketers deeper demographics and more insights into what people want, prefer and demand based on what they ask Siri to do in the first place. Siri may be the next big thing, but we won’t know for sure until the devices are on sale and the service stands up to consumer road tests in the wild. The big question is: how much will people trust and rely on Siri for assistance. It’s one marketers will have to wait out. One thing is certain: marketers won’t get the answer just by asking Siri. This is where first-hand experience, knowledge and interacting with customers will give us the ability to gauge their real interest and actual participation.