Doing It Wrong

A little over 8 years ago, Apple released Siri onto the world and almost overnight millions of people were talking to their phones rather than just through them. The service is pretty handy and it's incredibly good at determining context from just a handful of words. While the tool does not appear to be used in public very often in this part of Japan, there does seem to be a growing trend overseas where people have the "intelligent personal assistant" do the basic tasks that generally require a person to stop, pull out their phone, open an application, enter data, perform an action, then put the phone away and continue doing whatever it was they were doing before. Just pushing a button and asking Siri to remind us to buy milk the next time we're at the grocery store is very much a Star Trek like interaction with technology.

However, despite the convenience that Siri offers, I've often found it difficult to use for more than a couple of days at a time. This isn't because of misunderstandings or a lack of quick activities involving a computer, but more the result of habit. My first serious interactions with computers took place in 1994 and I've spent at least a couple of hours on a device of some sort almost every day since 19951. Siri was released in 2011 and I first used it a year later on an iPhone5, though only occasionally. From this point, a pattern would play out:

  • Apple releases a new version of iOS, which includes improvements to Siri
  • I update my devices
  • I test Siri out for some basic things and remark at how easy it is
  • I go back to doing my own data entry a few days later

The same thing happened when Siri became part of macOS. It was interesting to have the digital assistant on something more powerful than a phone, and it's slightly fun to say "Hey, Siri; launch Byword, please."2 and see it do so, but talking to a machine and having it respond is still something I find peculiar; particularly when it's for something that I can generally do in under a second with half of my fingers in half of a second without the use of my voice.

Is there a use case for Siri in workflows that involve something more complicated than "Remind me to buy milk tomorrow, please."? I'm sure there is, otherwise the service wouldn't have seen as much time, money, and effort from Apple as it has received. That said, I'm just not seeing how the assistant can offer much in my home beyond weather reports and kitchen timers.

Clearly I'm doing it wrong.

  1. There was a period of about three months in 2002 when, believe it or not, I did not own a computer of any kind. Mind you, this was also the point in my life where I was always just a couple of days away from being homeless. Whenever I received a paycheque, the important things had priority. Rent, then food, then the basic necessities.

  2. No, I don't have the devices set to listen for "Hey, Siri". There's always a button that needs to be pushed. Also, yes, I do say "please" when asking Siri to do something on my behalf. This isn't to garner brownie points when the robot apocalypse is upon us, but more because I'm not at all comfortable asking anyone or anything to do a task on my behalf without a modicum of respect and appreciation.