Utter the word “Siri” to many Indian tech users and it is a fair chance that you will see them roll their eyes. For, notwithstanding all the importance bestowed to Apple’s artificial assistant, there is a perception that Siri struggles with Indian accents and terms. Which is the reason why many people believe that the assistant is not used widely in India, notwithstanding there being a larger number of iPhone and iPad users in the country than ever before.
However, we have been told that a lot of work has gone into Siri in the years since her launch, making her more aware of accents and her whereabouts. She was very adept at handing out IPL updates this year, and well, Diwali, the Indian Festival of Lights, brought out the best in her.
We wished Siri a Happy Diwali and the assistant came up with a number of different responses. These varied from the relatively routine “Happy Diwali to you too” to a Mr Spock like “Eat Sweets and Prosper” to a very Indian “Happy Diwali, Nimish! Save me a laddu.” The interesting part was that in all these responses, Siri was attempting to be conversational rather than informative, which makes her all so…human, even if an artificial one.
We tried the same with Google Assistant (which is seen on Android devices) and Cortana (seen on Windows and Android) and it was a classic case of information trumping conversation. Both assistants, at least on this day, seemed to have more limited options. Cortana did reply to our greeting politely initially (although surprisingly with none of the wit that she shows in other Indian queries) and even threw in a few images, but she also once showed us links related to “wish you a very happy Diwali.” Google Assistant on the other hand wished us a Happy Diwali right back and followed it up with a quick description of the festival and what it stands for, and once for variety, also threw in “This week, I am celebrating Diwali, the festival of lights.”
No, this is not a comprehensive, conclusive test, but you know what? We think we will be using Siri a lot more after this. And perhaps so really should you. She may struggle with the odd Indian term, but Siri is becoming more Indian with every passing day.