Ten years ago, on October 4, 2011, an extraordinary thing happened: Apple launched Siri.
It started a bit shaky, but with 10 years of technological advancement, it defied all odds. Instead of solving her problems, creating something new, or actually answering any of our questions with helpful answers, Siri just kept. For a decade she continued to suck.
Siri wasn’t the first digital assistant created, but it appeared groundbreaking when it came out in 2011 on the iPhone 4S. You can talk to your iPhone and get it answered. You might ask him things like “What is the meaning of life?” or “Siri, do you love me?” or “What’s the weather like outside?” In the infamous voice of Siri, created accidentally from Susan Bennett, he would have let you know the answers to the best of his ability. And her abilities were, objectively, not very great. Outside of easily programmable responses like weather out or day of the week, instead of giving direct answers, Siri points you to a Wikipedia article.
Within a year, other major tech companies released their own digital assistants. Google gave us Google Now in July 2012, which eventually became Google’s assistant in May 2016. Amazon gave us Amazon Alexa in November 2014. And boy, are they more useful than Siri.
Today, if you ask Siri “Is weed legal in New York?” she responds by saying “OK, I found this on the web because weed is legal in NYC, check it out.” Isn’t this … actually an answer? When you ask Amazon Alexa, she says “Federal law prohibits the use, sale, and possession of all forms of cannabis. However, the state of New York allows the medical use of cannabis subject to state regulation. New York does not allow the recreational use of cannabis. use of cannabis “. And the Google assistant says “on the nytimes.com website, they say New York has legalized recreational marijuana after years of failed attempts and blocked efforts.”
That’s not all Siri can do. You can have Siri turn on the lights in the house, but that’s not great either. When it first launched, you had to change the lights one room at a time, which eventually got updated, but many users complain about the fact which still doesn’t work particularly well with all smart bulbs. You can tell your iPhone “Hey, Siri, tell Dani I’m late” and Siri will send a message to your best friend that is potentially the most aggressive version of that message, one where you would never write yourself: “I’m late”.
The period! The formality! You’ll still have to manually edit that text, so you might as well have typed it yourself the first time.
Ten years later, we saw the importance of virtual assistants. It is incredibly useful for people with disabilities. It can be paired with Bluetooth speakers for those with hearing difficulties and can help people call for help if needed. Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s assistant have become more useful. And voice readers have truly become a huge phenomenon on TikTok.
But, unfortunately, for anyone with an iPhone, we have to deal with the least useful voice assistant of all and there’s no reason to believe they’ll get better in the next decade.