Artificial intelligence has been with us for years, even in the little things like identifying the faces in a photo to the recommendations we see in our favorite apps. But recently we’ve seen new types of AI capable of doing things that were unthinkable years ago. These new AIs are changing how people interact with technology. But at the same time, Apple is clearly behind compared to its competitors.
Apple started a trend with Siri, but it quickly became obsolete
It’s impossible to talk about AI and not think of Siri. Apple’s virtual assistant was officially introduced in 2011 after the company bought Siri’s technology from a startup in 2010. The technology was able to understand a variety of commands to help users with web searches. Apple, of course, had ambitious plans for Siri, adding it as a feature of the iPhone 4S back then.
At the time, Siri’s capabilities were quite impressive, albeit limited. Siri could show you the weather, set a timer, search the web, call someone, play a song or set a reminder. All based on voice commands. Apple always said this was just the beginning. But it turns out that Siri never reached its full potential.
Several years have passed and very little has been added to Siri. It has gained a few new tricks, support for new languages and even new interfaces over the years. But never anything revolutionary about how it works. But of course, everyone became interested in voice assistants, and soon Apple’s competitors announced their own versions of Siri.
Google launched its own assistant, Microsoft came with Cortana and Amazon with Alexa. But while these companies have worked hard to make their assistants smarter over the years, Siri has largely remained the same as it was in 2011.
A new era for virtual assistants
Almost 12 years after Siri was announced, AI has become more advanced than ever. This year, tools like ChatGPT have shown how virtual assistants can think and even create new content instead of just giving short answers to obvious commands.
Earlier this week, a developer showed how the GPT-4 technology is even capable of creating iPhone apps using Apple’s SwiftUI language. Another great example is Brave Search’s new Summarizer feature, which uses AI to generate a multi-source summary of what the user is based on.
Most recently, Microsoft announced that it is bringing GPT-4 to its Office productivity suite with a new “Copilot” feature. With this feature, users will be able to do things like open PowerPoint and ask the app to create a full presentation just as described by the user command. And while these companies are already shipping products with a new generation of virtual assistants, Apple is sticking with Siri.
What happened to Siri?
Apple always used to promise in its presentations that Siri would get better and smarter. But this never happened in practice. According to several reports, the team behind Siri is simply unable to improve the assistant due to the way it was first built.
When Siri was released with the iPhone 4S, Apple basically implemented the code it had acquired from the startup. The idea was to ship the product and then work on a new version for the future. But over the years, the company has simply added minor updates to the original Siri code rather than actually working on a new version of it.
The result is that the Siri code is now a mess, and what many sources say is that no one at Apple really wants to be the one to change it. Based on what 9to5Mac know the code under Siri, most of the assistant’s responses are predefined and not really AI-based.
New York Times reported Wednesday that Apple engineers are testing “language-generating concepts” for Siri. 9to5Mac found references to confirm this report in the latest beta version of tvOS 16.4, the software that runs both Apple TV and Apple’s HomePod smart speaker.
Still, everything is very experimental at this point, and it’s unclear when we’ll see this new AI-based Siri in real life.
It may be too late for Siri
Apple is known for not being the first to release a feature. But in this case, the company is far behind its competitors. Siri is currently a joke and there are many users out there complaining about how the assistant is not even able to understand basic commands.
Apple seems to have already lost the virtual assistant battle. While it tries to make Siri better or less worse, its competitors are already launching new assistants that can create natural language text, images and even build new software. It’s time for Apple to stop trying to improve Siri and work on something new. Because it’s already too late for Siri.
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