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Say hello to Siri for iOS 7

Mark Hattersley | Jan. 2, 2014
Introducing the new version of Siri for the iPad and iPhone

Talking to your iPad is not much different from talking on your mobile phone. It's not appropriate in all contexts. If, for example, you're quietly reading in the library and need to set a reminder, you should use the Reminders app, not Siri. And if you're out in public, well, you can use Siri, but you do risk people giving you funny looks.

Apple's integration of Wolfram Alpha with Siri is a smart move. If you need answers to factual questions, such as the speed of light or the number of days until Christmas, the answer engine can provide the solution.

Personal dictation

Siri can hunt down business, movie and sport information, as well as answer general questions.

While Siri gets the bulk of the iPad feature hype, another speech-related technology may prove to be more important and a bigger boost to user productivity. On the keyboard you'll see a new button in the bottom row, to the left of the spacebar, with the image of a microphone on it. Tap this button and the iPad will transcribe whatever you say. It sends the results over the internet to a server that analyses your speech and converts it into text. We were impressed at just how fast the results came back, especially over Wi-Fi. And they were generally an accurate representation of what we had said.

To get the most out of dictation, you'll need to start thinking in punctuation. For example, to construct a decent email message, we might say, "Dan. Comma. New paragraph. What do you think about writing a review of iOS numeral five. Question mark. New paragraph. Let me know what you think. Exclamation point." However, it works.

Part of Siri's charm isn't in its feature set (which is still hit and miss), but it's personable nature. Siri feels a lot less robotic than other voice-activated technology. Even when Siri gets out of its depth and doesn't know what to do, it's difficult to feel too frustrated. And you can joke around with Siri. Apple has spent a lot of time providing Siri with a range of comebacks to joke questions (many geeky by nature). Try telling Siri you love it, or use common catchphrases such as "Who's your daddy" or "Who let the dogs out?" These are constantly being updated, too - for example, a recent one is to keep saying "Okay Glass" (the phrase used to activate a rival product made by Google), and Siri starts to get annoyed.

Siri is by no means perfect, and occasionally it can mistranslate what you're saying, either transcribing the wrong message or finding the wrong result from Contacts. But it gets better the more you use it, and the more useful it becomes. And it's fun! Siri is one of the most entertaining aspects of the iPad, so be sure to hold down the Home button and try it out.

Siri has a quirky sense of humour and will respond to geeky comments, flirtation and famous sayings.

 

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