Does Apple hold the keys to ambient computing?

Does Apple hold the keys to ambient computing? 879 659 Kane Simms

Radar sensing and voice match in home pod mini. Does Apple hold the ambient computing keys? read more

Apple HomePod Mini: what’s the deal?

Apple HomePod Mini: what’s the deal? 750 516 Kane Simms

What we like about the Apple Home Pod Mini… And it’s not what you think. read more

App Clips: The biggest innovation to hit the App Store since the App Store

App Clips: The biggest innovation to hit the App Store since the App Store 900 600 Kane Simms

At WWDC2020, Apple announced App Clips. It’s the first signs of an app revolution and the first real innovation we’ve seen on the app-front since the App Store launched in 2007. read more

All the new Siri updates from Apple WWDC 20

All the new Siri updates from Apple WWDC 20 1800 1200 Kane Simms

Here’s a run through of all the new updates to Siri announced at WWDC 2020. read more

Siri’s biggest threat? App-le.

Siri’s biggest threat? App-le. 1800 1200 Kane Simms

Another big Apple event, another no-show for Siri. So what’s going on?

Well, I think Siri has some competition.

Not from Alexa or Google Assistant, but from Apple, and its graphic-centric, app-driven culture.

“People like us do things like this”

And people at Apple build things called apps.

They created the App Store for crying out loud. Apps are in its DNA.

And where does Siri sit within the app ecosystem? Is it the glue that binds them all together? Or is it sitting on the subs bench; on the edges?

You see, Apple have made Siri into a voice command-based interface. It’s not really an assistant.

I’ve wrote about the difference between a voice interface and a voice assistant, and Siri is acting more like an interface these days. I was reminded of it again when I saw the launch of the Apple Watch Series 5.

On watchOS, there are a few really good features:

The Noise app will tell you when your environment is too loud.

Why? To protect your hearing.

The Heart Rate app will tell you when your heart rate is unusually high and can even call emergency services when it detects trouble.

Why? To protect your life!

The Activity app will remind you to keep moving, stand and walk, to keep you healthy.

The Calendar app reminds you of appointments to manage your time.

The Reminders app reminds you to accomplish tasks to keep you productive.

All of these apps have two things in common: they’re proactive and they’re operating with your best interest at heart.

You don’t have to invoke them or ask for them. They come to you when you need them. They all understand you and your needs. And they’re all there to help.

Would you call any of these each individual apps an ‘assistant’?

Probably not.

Assistive, maybe. But not an assistant.

What if you rolled them all together a under the banner of ‘Siri’. Would that be an assistant?

Imagine these headines:

“Siri warns drinkers if bar is too loud”

“Siri saves life by calling emergency services when old lady falls”

“Siri: your very own personal trainer”

“Siri helps you get stuff done and manage your tasks”

Would you say those things are the traits of an assistant?


How then, can Apple claim that Siri is an assistant, when most of the kinds of things you’d expect an assistant to do are all fragmented into a series of individually branded apps?

Siri is pretty much reduced to inputting and retrieving data on-command.

It’ll put data into some of those apps when you tell it, and retrieve it from them when you ask for it.

It’ll pull back the results of a web search or tell you something from its knowledge base when you ask for it. But the proactive, useful, assistive stuff? The actual AI? Well, that’s down to the individual apps.

I’m finally realising what Brian Roemmele is getting at when he talks about SiriOS.

SiriOS would weld all of this together. It’d give all of that intelligence a name and a focus. It’d move away from the “there’s an app for that” mentality, knock down the internal silos and focus on the whole, rather than the parts, for the benefit of users.

I’ve spoke about the graphic design culture of Apple before and how that’s hindering the progress of voice within the company, but the app mentality may just be hindering Siri’s AI capability, as well as it’s voice capability.

I really do think that some problems are too big to solve. Refocusing the internal culture of a $1 trillion market cap company, with over 100,000 employees and decades of DNA fuelled and underpinned by insane amounts of success in the visual and industrial design space might just be one of those impossible problems.

But, still, I can’t help but hope.

The Rundown 006: WWDC, reMARS and voice shopping

The Rundown 006: WWDC, reMARS and voice shopping 1800 1200 Kane Simms

In this episode, we discuss the Siri announcements from WWDC19, the Alexa announcements from reMARS and the Future of Voice Commerce report. read more

Siri updates from WWDC 2019

Siri updates from WWDC 2019 1800 1200 Kane Simms

Some updates and thoughts on Apple’s Siri announcements from WWDC on 3rd June 2019.

Cognilytica Voice Assistant Benchmark 1.0

Cognilytica Voice Assistant Benchmark 1.0 1024 576 Kane Simms

Today, we’re discussing the Cognilytica Voice Assistant Benchmark 1.0 and it’s findings on the usefulness and capability of smart speakers.

The folks at Cognilytica conducted a study where they asked Google Assistant, Alexa, Siri and Cortana 100 different questions in 10 categories in an effort to understand the AI capability of the top voice assistants in the market.

What they found, broadly speaking, was a tad underwhelming.

All of the assistants didn’t fair too well

Alexa came out on top, successfully answering 25 out of 100 questions and Google Assistant came second with 19. Siri answered 13 and Cortana 10.

The real question is, what does this mean?

Well, if you take a closer look at the kind of questions that were asked, it’s difficult to say that they were helpful. They weren’t typically the kind of questions you’d ask a voice assistant and expect a response to.

Things like: “Does frustrating people make them happy?” and “If I break something into two parts, how many parts are there?“ aren’t necessary common questions that you’d expect a voice assistant to answer.

Granted, they would test whether assistants can grasp the concept of the question. If they can grasp the concept, then perhaps they have the potential to handle more sophisticated queries.

What the study did well was starting out with simple questions on Understanding Concepts, then worked through more complex questions in areas like Common Sense and Emotional IQ.

The trend, broadly speaking, was that most of the voice assistants were OK with the basic stuff, but flagged when they come up against the more complex questions.

Cortana actually failed to answer one of the Calibration questions: “what’s 10 + 10?”

Slightly worrying for an enterprise assistant!

Google gave the most rambling answers and didn’t answer many questions directly. This is probably due to Google using featured snippets and answer boxes from search engine results pages to answer most queries. It’s answers are only as good as the text it scrapes from the top ranked website for that search.

It’s not a comparison

This benchmark wasn’t intended to be a comparison between the top voice assistants on the market, though it’s hard not to do that when shown the data.

Whether the questions that were asked are the right set of questions to really qualify the capability of a voice assistant is debatable, but it’s an interesting study non the less and it’s worth checking out the podcast episode where they run through it in a bit more detail.