Walt Mossberg Calls Siri 'Too Limited and Unreliable' to Compete in 'Coming AI Wars'

iOS-9-SiriThe Verge's Walt Mossberg today wrote a critical article on Apple's Siri personal assistant, exploring the service's shortcomings, mistakes, and inability to answer some simple questions that competing products have no problem with.

Entitled, "Why does Siri seem so dumb?", Mossberg's article, covers several questions Siri couldn't answer, ranging from queries about political candidates to the date of the World Series to the weather in Crete. In each instance, Siri failed to provide the desired information, while Google Now, Google's Siri competitor, was able to answer every single question correctly.

In recent weeks, on multiple Apple devices, Siri has been unable to tell me the names of the major party candidates for president and vice president of the United States. Or when they were debating. Or when the Emmy awards show was due to be on. Or the date of the World Series. When I asked it "What is the weather on Crete?" it gave me the weather for Crete, Illinois, a small village which -- while I'm sure it's great -- isn't what most people mean when they ask for the weather on Crete, the famous Greek island.

According to Mossberg, Apple has fixed many of the above Siri shortcomings thanks to his feedback, and has "stressed" to him that the company is "constantly improving Siri." Apple says it focuses more on tasks like placing phone calls, sending texts, and finding places rather than "long tail" questions, which aren't as popular with iPhone and iPad users. Mossberg speculates that such questions aren't popular anymore because people "just give up" on asking Siri these types of things due to failed responses.

Mossberg also outlines several failures with Siri's cloud-based services, from searching through iMessages to locating photos to finding calendar appointments, drawing the conclusion that Apple has "wasted its lead" with Siri, which is now forced to compete with services from Google, Amazon, and Microsoft. Mossberg believes that Siri "seems stagnant" and is "too limited and unreliable" compared to other services.

Though it may not seem like it, Apple has been putting a lot of effort into improving Siri. Back in August, Apple executives Eddy Cue, Craig Federighi, and Phil Schiller explained that machine learning techniques have cut Siri's error rate by a factor of two, improving understanding. Since 2014, Siri and other on-device features, like the QuickType keyboard, Spotlight, autocorrect, Maps, and more, have been powered by a neural net-based system that is able to provide users with more personalized responses and actions.

Recent rumors suggest Apple aiming to improve Siri's functionality even further in an effort to build the personal assistant into an Echo-like Smart home device that would do things like control smart home accessories. Apple is also said to be working on an "Invisible Hand" initiative that would allow users to fully control their devices through a Siri command, something that could debut within three years.

Mossberg's full article on Siri, which is well worth reading, can be accessed over at The Verge.

Top Rated Comments

harrisondavies Avatar
59 months ago
Yup. I want Siri to tell me the answer, not direct me to a website to search for an answer. Siri is way behind imo.
Score: 103 Votes (Like | Disagree)
tekchic Avatar
59 months ago
Siri sets my alarms every night, and adds items to my Grocery list in Reminder. That's it. Apart from that, things like "Call my dad" completely confuzzles her where she tries to call ME... yet "Call my father" works fine. No logical sense whatsoever.

I've pretty much given up on Siri because 99% of the time, anything out of the ordinary (timers, reminder items) seem to just get me a snarky, useless response which triggers my nerd rage. :D
Score: 61 Votes (Like | Disagree)
tongxinshe Avatar
59 months ago
The worst part of Siri is not that it being dumb, it's that you have no way to point out its dumbness, via continued conversation!

No real person can guarantee to understand everything at first sight, they get them eventually by piecing together the information collected during the whole conversation.

Me: I want to visit Liz' house.
Siri: There is no one named Lucy in your contacts.
Me: Her full name in my contact is Lizzy Romi.
Siri: I am sorry I don't understand what you mean.
Score: 57 Votes (Like | Disagree)
_mdavenport Avatar
59 months ago
Spot-on, Walt.

I already tweeted his article to Tim Cook. Siri needs to finally graduate from Kindergarten.
Score: 50 Votes (Like | Disagree)
apfelbaum Avatar
59 months ago
In my case he is totally right about "people just gave up" to ask Siri more advanced questions, I just assume it wouldn't be able to answer that.
Score: 49 Votes (Like | Disagree)
mtnDewFTW Avatar
59 months ago
Well, he isn't exactly wrong.
Score: 33 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

samsung experience 1

Samsung's 'iTest' Lets You Try a Galaxy Device on Your iPhone

Thursday April 8, 2021 12:42 pm PDT by
Samsung has launched "iTest," an interactive website experience that's designed to allow iPhone users to test out Android on a Galaxy device, or "sample the other side," as Samsung puts it. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. The iTest website is being advertised in New Zealand, according to a MacRumors reader who came across the feature. Visiting the iTest website on...
pixel watch prosser leak

Google Pixel Watch Allegedly Leaks with Circular Design, Rumored to Launch in October

Monday April 12, 2021 2:49 am PDT by
Renders of Google's first smartwatch, codenamed "Rohan," have been shared by Jon Prosser, showing that Google plans to adopt a circular design for its flagship wearable watch. Prosser shared the renders in an episode of his YouTube show "Front Page Tech," in which he claims they were made based on marketing material he had seen from a source within Google. The renders show that the Pixel...
AppleTV and HomePod Feature

Bloomberg: Apple Working on New Apple TV With Integrated HomePod Speaker and FaceTime Camera

Monday April 12, 2021 3:32 am PDT by
Apple is working on a combined Apple TV with HomePod speaker that has a camera for video calls through a connected television set, according to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman. From the report: The company is working on a product that would combine an Apple TV set-top box with a HomePod speaker and include a camera for video conferencing through a connected TV and other smart-home functions,...
nba tracking prompt orange

Two-Thirds of iPhone Users Expected to Block Ad Tracking

Friday April 9, 2021 7:19 am PDT by
As many as 68 percent of iPhone users are expected to deny advertisers permission to track them thanks to Apple's App Tracking Transparency feature, in what is beginning to look like a significant blow to the advertising industry (via AdWeek). With the launch of iOS 14.5, apps will have to receive explicit user permission before accessing an iPhone's advertising identifier or IDFA, which is...
fake airpods 3

Counterfeit 'AirPods 3' Hit the Market Prior to Official Announcement

Friday April 9, 2021 2:45 am PDT by
Apple is expected to launch the third iteration of AirPods in the third quarter of this year. Rumors and reports suggest the new AirPods will feature an updated design more in line with the AirPods Pro, but lacking in "Pro" features such as active noise cancellation. Despite AirPods 3 not yet being officially announced by Apple, counterfeit products of the unreleased earbuds have already hit ...
Top Stories 56 Feature

Top Stories: 'Find My' Expansion, iPhone 13 Pro Mockup, Largest-Ever iMac?

Saturday April 10, 2021 6:00 am PDT by
Apple's AirTags may still be nowhere to be seen nearly two years after signs of them were first discovered, but Apple this week launched its Find My network accessory program that will let third-party devices integrate with the Find My app on Apple's platforms to make it easy to keep track of your items. This week also saw fresh rumors about the upcoming "iPhone 13" and new iMacs, while...
ehric

iPhone 12 Mini Missing From Top 5 Best Selling Smartphone List of January 2021

Friday April 9, 2021 4:58 am PDT by
According to market data compiled by Counterpoint Research, Apple's smallest iPhone since the 2016 iPhone SE, the iPhone 12 mini, struggled to obtain a spot in the top five list of best-selling smartphones in January of this year. According to the market data, the iPhone 12 mini came in eighth place for the best-selling smartphone worldwide in the first month of the year. However, the iPhone ...
sonny 2021 ipad mini pro dummies

Leaked Dummy Units Show iPad Mini 6 With Thick Bezels and Home Button, New iPad Pro Models

Thursday April 8, 2021 2:11 am PDT by
Rumors suggest Apple will release refreshed versions of the iPad mini and iPad Pro models in the first half of this year, potentially as soon as this month, and a new leak today has provided us with a possible preview of what to expect in terms of the devices' overall design and camera prospects. Tech leaker and Apple blogger Sonny Dickson this morning shared images on Twitter showing dummy ...
Google maps feaure green

Google Maps App for iOS Finally Updated After Four Months

Monday April 12, 2021 10:03 am PDT by
Following the completed rollout of App Privacy labels for its App Store apps, Google today updated the Google Maps app for the first time in four months. Apple in December began requiring all new app submissions and app updates to include App Privacy labels, detailing the data that is collected by the app so consumers know what they're sharing. Google didn't begin implementing App Privacy ...
epic iap feature 3

Tim Cook Says App Store Would Become a 'Flea Market' if Third-Party Payment Systems Were Allowed

Monday April 12, 2021 9:41 am PDT by
In a recent interview with the Toronto Star, Apple CEO Tim Cook spoke about a wide variety of topics, ranging from App Tracking Transparency to Apple's ongoing legal battle over App Store policies with Fortnite creator Epic Games. Notably, Cook said that Epic Games' desire for Apple to let developers offer their own payment systems in apps "would make the App Store a flea market":At the...