What it is: Siri is a voice-activated, voice recognition system able to translate spoken words into text and computer commands.
When Apple introduced Siri with the iPhone 4S, the idea of a natural language assistant seemed like science fiction. Although early car navigation systems had offered voice recognition commands, you often had to speak in stilted sentences. Siri lets you speak naturally and still control your phone.
Although critics dismissed Siri as a gimmick, companies like Microsoft and Google quickly introduced their own voice activated assistants. Yet the real genius of voice recognition assistants has multiple benefits.
First, Siri allows hands-free operation. This is especially important for CarPlay, Apple’s in-dash automotive entertainment system. When you’re driving, you can’t be distracted fumbling with buttons or glancing down to look at a touch screen interface. Anything that draws your eyes from the road represents a serious distraction.
Yet with Siri, it’s possible to control CarPlay entirely through voice commands. Now you can drive and play music, answer phone calls, and send e-mail just by talking out loud while keeping your hands on the steering wheel and your eyes on the road.
Siri is also crucial for the Apple Watch as well. With its much smaller screen, the Apple Watch doesn’t have room for people to fumble around a touch screen interface with fingers that practically cover the whole surface of the Apple Watch screen. That’s where Siri comes in again.
One way to interact with the Apple Watch is through voice commands, courtesy of Siri. Instead of looking for an Apple Watch user interface, you can control your Apple Watch through voice commands. While it may look silly to speak out loud to nobody in particular, the Apple Watch becomes more useful through Siri.
Siri on the Macintosh can be useful for people with physical disabilities. Now they can control their Macintosh solely through voice commands. Best of all, Siri is a built-in feature, not an expensive add-on, which means every modern Macintosh can offer voice recognition control.
By itself, Siri is just an interesting project, but when placed on the Macintosh, on mobile devices, and in cars, Siri suddenly becomes a vastly more useful way to interact with different devices.
One especially handy feature of every Apple device is the ability to accept foreign languages. Through software settings alone, both OS X and iOS can switch to another language seamlessly.
Now combine Siri with OS X and iOS, and you have a voice recognition assistant that can understand multiple languages. For people who speak other languages, Siri lets them speak in their native tongue. For people learning another language, Siri gives you a way to practice your pronunciation in a safe environment.
Typically the way most people learn to speak a foreign language is through interaction with others who speak that same language. That means lots of embarrassment trying to say a word but mispronouncing it and getting strange looks from people around you.
With Siri, those days are gone forever. Practice dictation with Siri in a foreign language and see if Siri recognizes what you’re trying to say. If so, then you’re likely pronouncing the words correctly. If not, you get instant feedback from Siri without the embarrassment you might feel talking to another person.
Through Siri and foreign language support built-in to OS X and iOS, you can learn to speak a foreign language using Siri as your pronunciation feedback guide.
With so many different uses for Siri, it’s hard to believe that voice recognition systems have come such a long way in such a short amount of time at a price within the reach of practically everyone. Siri didn’t invent voice recognition, but Siri did help make it popular in our everyday lives.
That alone is innovation enough. Now with a little bit of creativity, you can make Siri even more useful to control your car, your Apple Watch, your Macintosh, your iPhone, and your iPad. Then use Siri to take dictation and help you practice a foreign language. Siri’s uses span a broad range of possibilities, which makes Siri one of the most influential technologies in the computer market.