Apple is having a rough time in China again and the situation seems very ironic to many following is (not to mention the whole Karma angle). In 2012 a Chinese company by the name of Zhizhen filed a patent infringement suit against Apple claiming the iThing maker violated their patent on voice related technologies. Zhizhen uses this technology in their Xiao I Robot software and Apples inclusion of Mandarin and Cantonese violates their rights on this technology.
Taking their cues from Apple’s Siri a group of developers came up with a natural speech recognition algorithm similar to Siri in 8 hours. The difference is that this one is for Android. The new app (that is available as an alpha release in the Android Market) is called Iris and for an 8-hout project is very functional. We were rather impressed after we had a few hours to tinker with it.
After we first heard that someone had done this we immediately went to the Market to see if we could get it there. The first thing that we noticed though was that while we could grab this for our phone, there was nothing visible in the Market on our Transformer tablet. In fact a quick run to the Market on our desktop PC shows us that Iris is not compatible with our Transformer. The other thing that we noticed is that you have a grab a dependency application called Speech Synthesis. This is what takes the text based responses and turns them into speech for you to enjoy.
One of the first questions we put to Iris was the big one… What is the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everything! It took three tries but we got the answer we were looking for. However some of the more mundane ones like “What is the forecast for the weather near Orlando” it had some problems with. I think my favorite answer for that question was “Beyond your Ability to comprehend”.
Now, I know this is nowhere near as polished or complete as Siri is on the iPhone, but what I did like was how accurate the device was at picking up what I was saying. Even when using contractions like what’s or can’t it knew what I was looking for. I was also able to differentiate between declarations and questions.
We are still playing around with this very interesting software, but we have to say what if this is what the group at Dexetra can do in only 8-hours… Apple should be worried when they put some real time and effort into it.
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Has anyone gotten tired hearing about Siri? I mean people are just going on and on about it. People are even interviewing the phone for crying out loud. The funniest thing about it is that some are looking at these interviews with Siri and claiming this is proof that Apple has developed some form of new AI. Ugh… the things some people will believe. Once and for all; Siri is a VERY cool product which can be fun to tinker with, dangerous if you are not careful and an extremely simple concept.
We have said this before, but it bears repeating. Siri is a speech to text engine that takes the input and then searches through a series of commands and responses. These are preprogramed and Siri cannot make decisions of judgment calls. If it cannot find it in its internal database as a command or a pre-programed response it will attempt to find it using an online search engine (Google, Bing, Wolfram Alfa…) Once it has a response it then converts that from text back to speech. The algorithm for this is not that complicated and is not much more than an extension of traditional voice commands. In fact I have a remote control sitting in my lab from Amulet Devices that is capable of understanding my commands and looking for the proper responses. If I want to watch an action movie it will search through my collection or in an online catalog for that genre. It can do the same thing with music. I have had this for over a year now, so really Siri is cool but not ground breaking.
This leads me into a rather ridiculous comment made by one of the principal investors in Siri before Apple bought it. Gary Morgenthaler, has said to Cnet that Siri represents a real danger to Google and Microsoft. He also goes on to make a claim that Siri is capable of “understanding” that is simply not true. Siri takes the natural speech and converts that to text that it can respond to. It does not understand anything more than the pre-programed responses. If Siri truly understood it would be able interpret what you are saying and then respond with questions for clarity or with real information. When I asked Siri if it liked Doctor Who, it responded to me with a listing of Doctors within 10 miles all pulled from Google.
Even funnier is that Cnet comments that Siri must be popular because it has spawned a popular blog called Sh** that Siri Says. If this is the case then I guess that the auto correct function on Android and iOS is very popular as well. After all there are multiple sites that are dedicated to just how badly these products screw up what we are trying to say and do… oddly enough, just like Siri does sometimes.
In reality, we have someone riding the popularity of a novel API that is truly in its infancy as far as technology and application. Microsoft, Google and others are all working on similar APIs. Apple just did what they do best, they got to market first with a workable product, but if you look closely you can just make out the duct tape holding parts of it together…
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