The pre-WWDC rumors are starting to fly and the big news this year is voice assistants. Apple is anticipated to unveil a smarter Siri with a developer SDK. The focus on voice assistants is acute right now because Microsoft, Facebook, and Google are announcing advanced AI driven chat bots and contextually aware voice assistant at the same time that Siri gives the impression of stagnation. Whether or not this judgement is fair, Apple’s monolithic release schedule works against popular confidence. When releases only happen once a year it appears that nothing is happening for months and months until the next version is released. As I think about a future Siri, these are some things I wish I could say and have my phone understand and act on appropriately.
Hey Siri, turn off notifications for a while.
You can turn Do Not Disturb on and off via Siri, but sometimes I want to just turn it off for a little while. I’m going into a movie or a meeting and I don’t want my phone or watch buzzing for a while. So I think Siri should offer some options you can choose from when turning off notifications, maybe defaulting to Do Not Disturb or 4 hours or something.
It would also be great if this feature would appear on my lock screen when my phone enters certain sensible geofenced places, theaters, concert halls, or places of worship for example.
Hey Siri, tell me when Bossy McBossface emails me.
Just as I would like more options to receive less notifications I would like to be able to override app/system wide notification settings in specific circumstances. This is exactly the type of thing I would ask a flesh and blood assistant to help me with. I’m anticipating a specific thing will happen and don’t want to worry about it until it does, let me know when it happens.
Siri, lock my kids’ devices.
We have a family account which I would love to see fleshed out in a lot of ways. If Siri allowed a parent in a family to lock a child’s device with a parent specific PIN it would make the last few minutes of any screen time my kids have much more bearable.
Siri, let my wife know when I leave.
Having Siri notify others when something occurs and I don’t necessarily have the Siri UI up anymore would be very nice. This specific example is about increasing communication in a family, but the broadly applicable thing here is the assistant watching for something requested and then acting on it, even if it is not invoked by the user at the moment of the event it is waiting for. This specific case could actually be handled more simply by handing the task off to Find My Friends.
Siri, record a memo then transcribe it.
Integration with the built in voice memo app would be fantastic for me. This would be a good opportunity to display an extension UI within Siri as well. The key to this feature would be the transcription. With an original audio file saved I want Siri to give its best shot at a transcription, that is associated with the memo in voice memos or lives in Notes and linked to the Memo somehow.
The problem this solves for me is the finicky nature of iOS Voice Dictation. Sometimes I have thought to try writing a journal entry or blog post using dictation, but it seems to only be able to handle a couple sentences at a time. The results are often garbled and knowing this changes the way I speak and think while attempting to dictate. An original audio recording solves this because it is relatively easy to listen back to myself if I forgot what I said and something in the transcription is obviously off. A Siri transcription would serve as a clean first pass, with one time editing needed, instead if a start and stop fight with the machine.
Third Party Integration
Siri, tell Square Cash to send Baby McBabysitter $20.
Siri, tell Parkmobile to end my parking session.
Siri, tell 2Do I exercised.
Siri, tell Harvest to stop my timer.
These are pretty self explanatory. Adding some kind of token at the beginning of the request lets Siri know to check for API integration with specific apps.
All of these features extend what Siri can do by making it more aware of what you do on your phone and by hooking it into those actions. The future is hard to see but I imagine voice control of technology will only grow. I am excited to see what Apple has been doing and for the next few years of voice assistant technology in general.