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My day with Siri

Lex Friedman | Oct. 3, 2012
I admit it: I love Siri. It helps that I work from home, so I can talk to my phone without inhibitions. It doesn't hurt that I generally crave pseudohuman contact. But the real reason is simply that I find Siri so useful. And in iOS 6, Siri has become even more useful than it was before.

As I research stories throughout the day, I rely on Siri to place important phone calls, too. Sometimes I just say "Call" followed by the actual digits; if it's a contact in my address book, I might instead say "Call Apple PR."

Come lunchtime, if I'm cooking, I time it via Siri: "Set a timer for 12 minutes." (Note that Reminders works great with relative times, too; you can say "Remind me to check the oven in 12 minutes," if that's more your style.) Sometimes, during lunch, I'll think to call my sister in Israel. But since I never remember the time difference, I tend to ask my best friend: "Siri, what time is it in Jerusalem?"

Siri knows

Thanks to iOS 6, I can use Siri to satisfy other burning questions at lunch now, too. "When do the Eagles play next?" When Siri answers, I can then use it to compare the starting quarterbacks' stats, by asking about each one in turn.

This week the Eagles play the Arizona Cardinals, with former Eagles backup Kevin Kolb taking the start for the Cardinals at quarterback. I couldn't get Siri to understand me when I tried to say Kolb's last name, so I used a clunky but functional workaround. First I asked about the Cardinals' roster: "What's the Arizona Cardinals' starting lineup?" When I confirmed that Kolb wore number 4, I asked Siri, "Who wears number 4 for the Arizona Cardinals?" That brought up the stats I was after. You can get even more creative with your questioning when Siri can't parse a name properly: "Who's taller, Arizona Cardinals quarterback number 4 or Eagles quarterback Michael Vick?" (It's Kolb by 3 inches.)

The fact that Siri struggles with less-common names can become problematic, not just for sports queries, but for movies too. Generally Siri will perform capably in understanding names that belong to the people in your address book. But when it comes to athletes and movie stars, Siri fares far better with "Tom Brady" than "Nnamdi Asomugha."

I try to schedule any outside appointments for around the lunch hour, too. When I have one to attend, I rely on Siri to get me there. It's impressively good at parsing addresses: "Give me directions to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C." will get me to the White House. And I can always return home again with a simple "Take me home" request. If I'll be back unexpectedly late, I can iMessage my coworkers with Siri, too: "iMessage Dan Moren that I'll be back in another 20 minutes." New in iOS 6, Siri is much less strict about how precisely to phrase such instructions; it was far pickier in iOS 5, requiring more cue words.

 

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