New and Improved Siri is Smarter Than Ever

Dr. Mac’s Rants & Raves
Episode #305

Apple’s virtual digital assistant, Siri, was introduced in 2011 with the iPhone 4S and is now available on most Apple devices. It’s been revised and improved by Apple in almost every operating system update over the ensuing years. And, since it relies upon machine learning to help it become even smarter, you might say it’s been under continuous development for nearly a decade.

It seems to me Siri has become smarter in Apple’s latest operating system updates including iOS 12, macOS 10.14 Mojave, and watchOS 5.

Smarter Siri?

For example, I needed to pay a parking ticket at any Austin Community College campus, so I got in my car and headed toward the campus where I attend classes. It occurred to me that ACC has like a dozen campuses spread around the region. While I only know the location of two (mine and the big one at Highland Mall), the ticket said I could pay it at any campus. So, I asked Siri for directions to the closest Austin Community College campus. Not only did she find a campus that was much closer, it was a campus I’d never heard of or seen before that was much closer. Bottom line: Siri saved me at least 30 minutes of unnecessary driving that day.

Here’s another one I recently discovered: I can ask Siri to alert me when it’s time to leave for an appointment based on current traffic conditions.

And another winner I discovered recently: “Hey Siri… Open the Keynote presentation I was working on yesterday.”

One of my favorites these days is using Siri as a translator: “Hey Siri…  How do I say, ‘I am allergic to peanuts’ in Spanish?”

Did you know that Siri is multilingual these days?
Did you know that Siri is multilingual?

I also use Siri many times a day to augment my aging memory with location-based reminders like:

  • Remind me to call my mother when I get to the office.
  • Remind me to buy 3½-inch deck screws when I’m near Home Depot.
  • Remind me to get milk when I’m near HEB.

Better than Ever

I love using Siri when I’m in my car for hands-free calls or short text messages, and I’ve noticed a couple of less-obvious things lately. For one, Siri has gotten better at recognizing speech over Bluetooth in my car. Since the car hasn’t changed, it must be that Siri is improving.

The second is even cooler—Siri can trigger Shortcuts on your iPhone or iPad. So, for example, whenever I see a web page I want to read later, I tell Siri to run “Message to me,” which is a Shortcut I created that sends the URL to me in a text message with a single tap. Or, “Hey Siri. Read this,” to run the Shortcut that instructs Siri to read text on the screen aloud.

The bottom line is that Siri is better than ever today. If you aren’t using it because of its past foibles, you should definitely give it another try.

2 thoughts on “New and Improved Siri is Smarter Than Ever

  • Bob:

    I’m inclined to agree with you; Siri has improved substantially.

    I find myself not simply invoking Siri with normal everyday speech in normal cadence, but for an increasing array of more complex tasks, and with very few failures. What I haven’t had time to do is learn ‘Siri shortcuts’ and string these together. I’m at a point in my life and career where minutes, if not seconds, count (like now); and gone are the days when I could sit down and play with my tech and keep abreast of the latest power user techniques.

    Rather, what I’d like is for my AI to track what I do and how I do it and suggest to me new ways that I can interact with my tech, rather than my instructing the AI. For example, it should know by now what time I workout during the weekdays, which days I do weight training vs high intensity interval vs cardio and give me the option to say ‘Start my workout’ and pull up the right category of routine for me to select. This is just one example. Siri is currently very good about my travel, and where I’m likely headed and giving both route suggestions and travel time estimates.

    I suspect there is a great deal more occurring in the background, at least if current rumours are any indication. I’m hopeful that Apple are continuing to work on how to use anonymised data (as opposed to hoovering up my actual identified data) to increase Siri’s positive predictive capacity and response accuracy and precision.

    In the meantime, yes; if people haven’t played with Siri for awhile, she’s a whole new AI now and worth re-engaging.

  • I disagree. Everything you mentioned can be done by Google Maps and Google just as easily. Siri still can’t keep a subject contextually, and Siri is USELESS unless you give up your LOCATION. When on iOS you are automatically being tracked so your location is never private hence Siri can give directions etc. but NOT on any desktop with Siri.

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