Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Que Sera, Siri?

Apple just announced the arrival of the new iPhone - not the iPhone 5, as anticipated, but the iPhone 4S - a pumped up version of the iPhone 4 featuring blazing speed and Siri, the "intelligent assistant." Now, the only kind of speed I am interested in these days would help me stay awake past 8 p.m. and keep me thin, but I must admit that having my own virtual trivia valet is intriguing. I definitely could use a memory concierge to manage all those critical "memos to self" I currently scrawl on the backs of envelopes and immediately lose - or, more often, forget to record in the first place. You know, things like: Wash face! Buy vodka! Find high-paying part time job with flexible hours, good benefits, and excellent on-site affordable childcare! Look into acquiring helper monkey! 
So it's pretty clear that I probably need Siri's services more than the average iPhone user. But I have a few reservations. 
For one thing, it is hard to look past the fact that Siri sounds something like a female version of Stephen Hawking. I know that I, for one, will not be able to refrain from wasting her assistance and my precious time with questions like "what will happen as I approach the singularity?" (If that makes no sense, go watch A Brief History of Time. It has Homer Simpson illustrating the physics of a black hole, or something like that, so you know it will be time well spent.)
But mostly, I think my deal with the iPhone 4S is Apple's claim that Siri "understands what you say and knows what you mean." Sounds excellent, right? I know that I am really tired of all the blank looks and growing sense that I am mostly speaking jibberish. Maybe with Siri, I can finally stop unloading my existential dilemmas on my exasperated friends and annoying my husband with questions about the neighbor's cat.
And then reality sets in. Why am I going to trust Apple on this one? I mean, how many text messages has their smart and helpful auto-fill/auto-correct system messed up for me? You know what I'm talking about.
You try to send someone greetings for the Jewish High Holidays and end up wishing them a happy Tosh Hashanah. Confusing - but still comprehensible. But your question about services for Tom lipoid (auto-correct for Yom Kippur) services is beyond obscure, and maybe a little morbid. At least if your name is Tom Lipoid. 
Maybe you're feeling a bit gangsta? Well, you're going to sound more geek when your greeting gets switched to "What up, Biotech?" 
Also mysterious are the words selected for the auto-fill feature that guesses what word you are typing after a few letters: sideburns? metabolism? extrovert? spandrel? Are these really words that people use so much they merit auto-completion? Why not words like gravity? Or douchenozzle? Or craptastic?
Wait a minute...douchenozzles actually gets auto-filled. Hmmm. I won't be lining up for the iPhone 4S just yet, but if you get a chance to chat with Siri maybe you can pass along a question for me.
What the he'll?

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