Walt Mossberg Asks: ‘Why Does Siri Seem so Dumb?”

Walt Mossberg Asks: ‘Why Does Siri Seem so Dumb?”

Walt Mossberg, writing for The Verge, on Wednesday posted a less than favorable piece about Siri, Apple’s virtual personal assistant for iOS, Mac, and Apple Watch devices. Mossberg’s piece covered a number of common complaints about Siri.

Walt Mossberg Asks: 'Why Does Siri Seem so Dumb?"

Mossberg’s post, ‘Why does Siri seem so dumb?’ covers several queries that Siri has problems dealing with.

In recent weeks, on multiple Apple devices, Siri has been unable to tell me the names of the major party candidates for president and vice president of the United States. Or when they were debating. Or when the Emmy awards show was due to be on. Or the date of the World Series. When I asked it “What is the weather on Crete?” it gave me the weather for Crete, Illinois, a small village which — while I’m sure it’s great — isn’t what most people mean when they ask for the weather on Crete, the famous Greek island.

Mossberg does acknowledge that Apple fixed a number of the above Siri “brain-farts,” when he offered feedback to the company. He notes the Cupertino firm had stressed that  they are “constantly improving Siri.” The company says Siri is designed to focus on performing tasks such as making phone calls, sending texts, and finding locations, rather than answering “long tail” questions.

… It puts much less emphasis on what it calls “long tail” questions, like the ones I’ve cited above, which in some cases, Apple says, number in only the hundreds each day.”

However, Mossberg says Siri also stumbles when performing the tasks Apple says it is designed to handle. This included asking Siri on his Mac how long it would take to get to work. Siri replied it didn’t have Mossberg’s work address, even though his “Me” contact card on the device includes his work address. Siri on his iPhone was able to provide the answer to the same query, using the same synced contact card as was available on Mossberg’s Mac.

A query to his iPad about what his next appointment was, resulted in a “Sorry, something’s wrong,” reply, not just once, but a number of times on multiple days. However, the same query on his iPhone gave the correct answer.

Mossberg also found snafu’s with searching for photos from a particular time and place. (A request for photos from York, England taken this summer resulted in displaying photos from a few years ago, taken in Yorktown, Virginia.)

Mossberg closes by saying, (rightfully), that “the AI revolution will demand more,” than Siri can currently provide:

But, in its current incarnation, Siri is too limited and unreliable to be an effective weapon for Apple in the coming AI wars. It seems stagnant. Apple didn’t become great by just following the data on what customers are doing today. It became great by delighting customers with feats they didn’t expect. The AI revolution will demand even more of that.

Although it may seem Siri is limited when compared to competitors, it should be noted that the firm is continually at work to make Siri smarter. Machine learning techniques are said to have cut Siri’s error rate in half, improving its understanding of queries. The AI revolution is continuing, and while Siri is an impressive weapon, Apple will have to do more.