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What's the Worst Thing About Virtual Assistants?

Illustration for article titled Whats the Worst Thing About Virtual Assistants?

There’s a rumor that Apple will be redesigning Siri to better resemble its colorful Watch version. Cool. But with Google Now and Microsoft’s Cortana getting a lot of development attention on their platforms, including a male version of Cortana, Siri probably needs more than just an interface overhaul. In fact, there’s annoying shit endemic to all of the “intelligent” assistants. What would you fix first?


I’ve had an iPhone for more than two years now, and I’ve probably used Siri half a dozen times — mostly just to see if “she” could parse my request at all. The other day I tried to dictate a series of text messages to Siri, but ended up spending as much time as they would’ve taken me to type out to edit in the words Siri had gotten wrong. And this is a personal pet peeve, but Siri can’t pronounce my name (“Kyla,” not “Kayla”) correctly and also spell it.

While I’ve always dreamed of the Star Trek scenario where you can imperiously command the computerized air, “Tea, Earl Grey, hot,” Siri can’t be trusted to return results for this well-known reference — even though there are 62,000 mentions on Google, mugs for sale and Captain Picard-inspired herbal blends. Instead after a few varying commands Siri found me some nearby restaurants that serve the tea.


If I used Siri more, I’d likely be more adept at knowing her quirks and getting her to more accurately give back the information that I’m after. But the truth is that I don’t have the time or patience. It’s a lot faster to just search for what I want and type out my own texts.

Of course, these are quibbles — but Siri’s lack of helpfulness makes me generally forget she even lives in my phone, until I accidentally hit the button and summon her, often at an inopportune moment when the chime is disruptive.

What’s your biggest bone to pick with the current state of virtual “smart” assistants? Have you fared better with Google Now or Cortana, or do you not even bother?

If you could change one thing for better-assisted functionality right now, what would it be?


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I live in a non-english country and have been using Siri in English for ages, with ios 8.3 Siri came in my native language and I changed the language immediately. Less than 15 minutes later she was back to her usual English. They could at least scan your music library and have them recognize song titles/artist names in English. 100% of the world listens to English music 100% of the time, this is a fact I read on the internet one time, so it’s true, Lincoln or Einstein said it. So yeah: after the “play”-command in whatever language just override the general language processor and switch to the english one, don’t make me say horrible, incomprehensible phonetic mumbo-jumbo to have my phone play a simple song...