Siri, are you going to get better?

WWDC 2024, Apple's developer conference, is just around the corner and rumors about AI are rampant. Large language models have taken the spotlight and Apple wants some of the limelight back as their products are perceived as getting stale and boring.

Apple will likely introduce an even better auto-correct (an improved transform language model), "magic eraser" photo enhancements, and auto-summary features for the "tl;dr" folks.

The biggest headline should be the overhaul of Siri though.

Today, Siri is a glorified voice control feature which works, sometimes. It is embarrassing when it "forgets" how to tell the time or that it constantly "found some web results" (with the energy of "Let Me Google That For You"). The numerous bugs around Siri and HomeKit are frustrating.

The absolute minimum Apple should do is guarantee the reliability of Siri. It should be consistent before adding more features. If Apple achieves reliability, I'm sure there will be many people praising Siri.

Still, I want something more; I would like to go back to the original vision for Siri.

On October 2011, Phil Schiller introduced Siri and put up a clear mission statement:

Your intelligent assistant that helps you get things done just by asking

Later on, a summary of features is given:

  • Natural language
  • Conversational
  • Contextual
  • Personal
  • Works with built-in apps
  • Dictation anywhere

There were additional Siri related features introduced at various WWDCs, but the original presentation encapsulated the intent of Siri.

With the industry wide obsession with AI, Apple has another chance at making Siri into an actually intelligent assistant.

Imagine you miss a phone call from a friend and they leave a voicemail asking to meet for lunch sometime soon. You get back to your phone, and while you could listen to the voice mail, the iPhone provides a summary, looks at your calendar, finds Friday at noon is free, and suggests a list of places. All you need to do is say "yes" and the iPhone will create and send a text message with the details. Your friend texts back and confirms; the iPhone reads the text and creates a calendar entry with all the details.

On Friday morning, the iPhone reminds you about the upcoming lunch with a suggested time to leave based on previous habits and current conditions (like the weather and traffic). When the iPhone detects you getting into your car, it brings up the Map with appropriate directions. As you set off, your friend texts you and asks when you will arrive, so the iPhone suggests sharing your location or ETA with them. You get to the restaurant and your iPhone displays a list of recommended dishes to try.

While it would be impressive for the iPhone to do even more like automatically making a reservation at the restaurant, the scenario is not too far fetched and is not overly ambitious. All of the functionality exists today but requires you to perform it versus the iPhone automatically doing it.

Call it Siri or something else, but I would much prefer getting a reliable and useful assistant instead of a "sometimes right, but always need to double-check" chatbot.