Impressive 'Siri' App Makes Your iPhone a Virtual Assistant
Siri is a new voice search and "virtual assistant" application for the iPhone that takes "natural language" requests and turns them into actionable results. For example, ask Siri "where can I get the best sushi," and it will, using the iPhone's GPS, search Yelp to find recommended sushi restaurants near you.
Using Nuance, the same speech-to-text engine that powers popular tools like Jott and the Dragon, Siri converts your requests to text, parses them to determine your intent, and then pulls appropriate content from its partners such as Yelp, Eventful and Taxi Magic. What makes Siri unique, and particularly useful, is that once you've found a restaurant, or a movie, you can reserve a table or purchase tickets right from the app. Siri can also look up weather forecasts, business locations and concerts, and can even book you a taxi.
We spent some time putting Siri through its paces and were generally pleased with the results. Siri recommends you use an iPhone 3GS, but the app was quite usable on our plain vanilla 3G. The speech-to-text worked well, although not perfectly; the biggest trouble we had was getting Siri to understand "the Mets." It had no issue recognizing the names of other sports teams we threw out, but it took over a dozen tries before Siri understood "the Mets."
Another issue we had was with looking up non-business or event information. Siri is capable of searching the Web and identifying people, but the results leave something to be desired. When we asked, "Who is Richard Nixon?" we were given a small box that identified him simply as a politician. And opening a Wikipedia link after performing a Web search is a two-tap process (the first tap opens a preview of the page, while the second tap opens the page in the inbuilt browser). When looking up information, Siri lags far behind the Google iPhone app.
The level of integration with data providers and services is second to none, and the speech-to-text engine is accurate. We wish Siri's Web and information search functions had been better thought out, but, hopefully, future versions will address existing problems. Check out the gallery below for some shots of Siri in action and some more hands-on impressions. [From: Siri]