Thursday, 15 November 2012

The AI Lab: A Look At iPhone Siri's Future

Alfred Omachar

Ever thought how great it would be if you could use voice control on your iPhone without having to lay your hands on it?

Well, the future looks very promising for Siri as speech recognition software company Nuance is working on building a mobile device that would allow its users to speak to it without ever touching it, even while it’s on sleep mode. Nuance Communications, which made the virtual assistant app called Dragon Go! and is widely believed to be the voice provider for Apple's Siri, believes that you would soon be able to talk to your smartphone while it lies idle. It is also expected that smartphones will have the ability to listen to an on-going stream of noise and differentiate its users voice from background chatter. The company is currently working with several chip designers on such a persistent low-power way in which devices could listen to voice commands from user. Vlad Sejnoha, Nuance's CTO, expects this to be achieved in just a few years.

However, it was noted that there are a couple of challenges that would have to be dealt with before these capabilities become available. Issues such as accidental triggering of the voice assistant and privacy/security if you always have software that is consistently listening in the background. Foolproof voice identification would also be needed to avoid the smartphone from releasing personal information to whoever asks it. But the biggest challenge of course would be to convince users to be comfortable with a device that is always paying attention. 

Looking at how Apple has approached technology over the past few years, we could expect anything to happen to Siri. Either way, no matter how enthusiastic you are about the voice technology, it seems that it is moving closer and closer to the world of sci-fi. One in which many techies have always dreamt of. Could we also see Siri moving into Mac? Or could we soon be able to say, “Siri, book me on the next flight to London”? Where do you see things going from here?