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How Apple Approached Developing Siri's Personality

Many readers are now enjoying some of the quirkier responses coming from Siri, Apple's intelligent assistant built into the iPhone 4S. The Wall Street Journal spoke with one of the co-founders of the original Siri and how they approached instilling Siri with personality:
"There were many conversations within the team about whether it should be gender neutral" or "should have an 'attitude,' " said Mr. Winarsky, who didn't go to Apple, and still works at SRI. The result, before the software was bought by Apple, was "occasionally a light attitude," he said.
According to a different person who actually worked at Apple on the Siri project, Apple focused on keeping Siri's personality "friendly and humble -- but also with an edge". According to their source, they were thinking "How would we want a person to respond?" while developing the software.

The Siri group is said to be one of the largest software teams at Apple and the crafted responses are to try to forge an emotional tie to customers. MacRumors forum readers are posting their favorite responses in this discussion thread.

Siri launched as an exclusive feature for the iPhone 4S and allows users to speak questions and requests directly to their iPhone.

Top Rated Comments

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104 months ago
from the easter eggs thread

Rating: 28 Votes
104 months ago
I have been really impressed with Siri. Last night Siri blew me away when I said "Add oatmeal to my groceries note". I felt certain Siri wouldn't have any idea what I meant. A second later Siri says okay and pops up my already existing grocery list in notes and adds Oatmeal on a new line at the end of the list ... I was stunned.
Rating: 18 Votes
104 months ago
I like the humor Apple gave Siri :)

Rating: 13 Votes
104 months ago

They should merge Siri with Cleverbot.

No, they definitely shouldn't. Despite Cleverbot's name, it's actually dumb as a brick.
Rating: 13 Votes
104 months ago

Yes, but it's not what they use to contact the ship. That would be a communicator (TOS) or combadge (TNG). Tricorders are used to scan things.

Yeah, but tricorders don't have "airplane mode" either. It was a joke. If siri said "your communicator is in airplane mode" that would be way too generic a tech term and some people would actually get confused and think siri was actually telling them an error message. When you're making a joke for *extremely* broad audiences in a technical context then you have to make sure that your joke can't possibly be misinterpreted.
Rating: 12 Votes
104 months ago

My 7 year old daughter started saying that Siri is "kind of rude" after Siri told her "I don't do knock knock jokes". :D
Rating: 10 Votes
104 months ago
My personal favourite " I need to dump a body ..." :D :D
Rating: 8 Votes
104 months ago
i heard steve jobs was the heart and soul but

you don't think they're telling us something do you?
Rating: 8 Votes
104 months ago
I think they keep adding to the set of possible responses to questions like 'What is the meaning of life'. I see more and more varied responses as more and more people ask that question.

But Apple SIRI team has access to everything. What people are asking and in what way. So, this personality will also develop as time goes by, since they can tweak it. They can also evolve it as the world around us changes and new cultural norms develop.

One thing they do not have is the feedback mechanism. What are people's reactions to SIRI's output at each instance? Even a small sample of feedback is just enough.

Like SIRI says something funny, the feedback is 'Siri, that is pretty cool'. Or 'that is disgusting'. Or 'you do not know anything. you are dumb'..whatever... That will be a treasure. But currently there is no conversational way to provide that feedback to SIRI. That is a bit unfortunate. In real world, that feedback is what helps people evolve a personality.

There is still a UI way. After the SIRI response, before the next touch of the Mic, whatever the user says right away can be treated as that feedback. But SIRI has to be listening at that point. I do not think it does currently. But that can be changed.
Rating: 7 Votes
104 months ago

Siri has the same thinking ability as a rock. All of "her" spoken language is preprogrammed. Her attitude is preprogrammed. Humans are at least 1000 years from developing anything close to actual thinking. The human brain has evolved over millions of years.

And your point is...? ;)
Rating: 6 Votes

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