The dust has settled after Apple's let's talk iPhone press conference and we now have a clear picture of Apple's upcoming releases. One of the biggest features of the new iPhone 4S is the Siri, Voice Assist app.
The feature will allow users to control their iPhone using just their voices. iPhone 4 already has a Voice Control system but it is very limited. The new system is supposed to recognize much more natural phrases and have a much greater tolerance for nebulous inputs.
To access Siri, users will have to hold down the home button for a few seconds and the application will launch.
The Voice Assist will be controlled with much more natural phrases and contextually figure out what the user is saying. Say you want to check the weather. With the old Voice Control a user might say look up: weather. But with the new Voice Assist, users could simply ask their iPhones Will I need an umbrella? or What's the weather like?
It looks like it will rain today, Siri might respond.
The app will have a robust voice-to-text system. The more you use the system, the better it gets at recognizing your voice. Texting will probably be one of the biggest uses for the voice-to-text feature. When you receive a text, you can have Siri read it out to you. Then Siri might ask if you want to reply to the message or if you would like to hear it again.
Siri can also interact with the iPhone's calendar. Siri can open up iCalendar, find and make appointments. Siri can also set the iPhone's alarm. In the press conference Scott Forstall, Vice President of iOS Software at Apple asked Siri to Wake me up tomorrow at 6 a.m.
OK I set it for 6 a.m., Siri responded in a robotic female voice.
The app will also be closely tied to the Wolfram Alpha, a computational knowledge engine. Wolfram Alpha is a search engine-like program that answers users' questions instead of searching the Web. The service can answer complicated math problems or calculate how many calories you ate for breakfast, as well as find the capital of Denmark. But Siri can also search the web, or look something up on Wikipedia.
The Voice Assist app can also find out what is happening on the NASDAQ, find a good Italian restaurant in the area or navigate you home. Siri can also find exchange rates, define words, or play songs from your iTunes media library.
And if you ask what Siri is, it will respond I am a humble personal assistant, or that's how it responded at Apple's press conference, followed by audience laughter.
Siri will only work if it connected to Apple's servers. However, working over Wi-Fi or 3G. Communicating over the Internet may slow long dictations down a bit.
The Siri Voice Assist app will be included with the iPhone 4S, but won't be available for earlier models (including iPhone 4). It will be available in English, French and German.