Apple’s WWWDC 2016 keynote opens today, where Siri, the company’s voice-assistant is expected to get a major upgrade. The most important change on the cards is that third-party developers will finally be able to access Siri’s voice-search capabilities as Apple opens the software development kit (SDK).
Today another report on Wall Street Journal confirmed the development quoting people familiar with the matter. According to the WSJ report, “Siri’s new capabilities could include the ability to call for an Uber ride or check in for a flight from an airline app.”
Apple increasing Siri’s presence across iOS should not come as a surprise. Siri, which was first introduced with the iPhone 4s, has not really kept pace with other voice-assistants.
Google, which has seen voice-based mobile searches rises thanks to its dominant in the Android and Search, expects its Assistant to be present pretty much everywhere. Google Assistant will rely on machine learning and natural language to have a conversation with users. Google also announced a speaker called Home, which will be powered by the Assistant.
There’s also Amazon’s Alexa assistant, which powers the Echo device and offers a wide-range of tasks like the ability to stream music, order from Amazon, etc. And yes, Microsoft’s Cortana is another potential challenger Siri has to compete against.
Facebook, which has over a 1 billion users, is also working on its own AI-based assistant called M.
So why has Apple taken forever to open up Siri? Blame it on Apple’s privacy obsession. In a podcast with NYT’s Farhad Manjoo, Mark Gurman, former Senior Editor at 9to5Mac known for his Apple scoops, explained why Apple has kept Siri so restricted.
He pointed out Apple wants to make sure the data collected by Siri, based on voice-searches should get allocated to the right application. Voice-based searches are stored by companies in their cloud-based servers, and there are privacy fears regarding these. Apple, as the recent standoff with the FBI made evident, takes customer privacy very seriously.
The Information has first reported Apple will open up the software development kit (SDK) for Siri. The report also adds the Cupertino-giant is working on an Amazon-Echo/Google Home style speaker device, which will come with Siri and the ability to stream music, get news headlines, etc. Whether we get a glimpse of this device at WWDC, remains to be seen.
Meanwhile another report on MacRumors hinted Apple is also looking at an iCloud Voicemail service to let Siri answer missed calls, record and transcribe messages for users. Plus Apple’s recent acquisitions of AI-based companies like VocalIQ, Perceptio could give Siri new capabilities, says the report.
With Artificial Intelligence and chatbots being seen as the future, there’s no doubt Siri needs to improve. Tech companies like Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and Facebook pitch AI as the future, and Apple can’t afford to lag behind.