Apple s annual developer conference, WWDC 2017, kicks off tonight. Unlike previous years, this time the developer conference is not just about the software, but hardware as well. After all, both elements need to work in tandem and Apple has quite a good record of producing devices that have the right balance of software and hardware. There s a lot of chatter around Apple showcasing Siri-based smart home speaker tonight. If rumors are to believed, the smart speaker is unlikely to be disruptive, but perhaps better than the current speakers that Amazon and Google offer. Personally, I am not very keen on Apple s another effort of getting into a “me too” game, like it did with the phablet and wearable spaces. I am more interested in the software bit — Siri s coming of age. Also Read - Happy Father's Day 2021: Google Doodle wishes dads with cute pop-up greeting cardAlso Read - Google might be working on a 'Find My' network clone for Android users
Even as we talk extensively about Artificial Intelligence becoming smarter and people embracing the technology with open arms, Apple s Siri, surprisingly, doesn t become the center of the discussion. Surprising isn’t it? Siri after all has been an integral part of the iPhones since 2011, when the company launched the iPhone 4s. Despite being around for six years on probably world s best mobile handsets, Siri doesn t come across as the future tech, when compared to Google s Assistant and other AIs doing the rounds presently. READ: Google I/O 2017: Artificial Intelligence-first finally becomes a thing Also Read - PUBG New State receives over 17 million pre-registrations as closed alpha testing ends
Forgive my brief flashback, I had briefly spent some time with the first version of Siri, and asked too many silly questions to get witty answers. Introduced at a time when I was using a Micromax feature phone, Siri had just blown my mind. I was more than convinced that it was time I should switch to a smartphone. I started off with a BlackBerry 9220, followed by Google Nexus 4, and finally settled on an Apple iPhone 6. Before iOS 10, I never used Siri, never needed to. In between, I used a few Android smartphones, and Google Now for its sheer usability left me impressed. Despite being an iPhone loyalist, it was pretty much difficult to defend smartness of Siri over Google s equivalent. ALSO READ: Apple iPhone 8, AR glasses details leaked by Foxconn employees ahead of WWDC 2017
Things pretty much changed with the iOS 10. Apple finally expanded its platform to third-party developers and showcased an improved Siri. I d recommend you to check out my detailed review of iOS 10 from last year wherein I remarked, I think opening Siri is a masterstroke on the part of Apple. It makes the digital voice assistant more useful for iOS users than just asking for weather information or setting alarms. ALSO READ: Apple iOS 10 Review: The biggest iOS update, ever
Cut to 2017, Siri is however far from the most talked about smart assistant for smartphones. Google s Home and Amazon s Alexa platforms seem to have expanded and showcased the massive potential of the AI becoming more usable for people like you and me. What works for AIs from Google and Amazon? An ecosystem.
Google is omnipresent. While Siri s expansion is all based on anticipation and safe predictions, Google has leaped frogged in this space with its recent updates to Google Assistant. Google s Pixel phones are perfect examples of how to bring AI to the center. Moreover, Google is bringing the AI to iPhones, becoming a direct competitor to Siri on Apple s home turf. From deeper integration with Google Photos, adding support to Android TVs to Cloud Tensor Processing Units (AI chipsets), Google has made its intentions of going super aggressive on AI very much clear. Our vision for the Google Assistant is to be universal, to be there everywhere the user needs it to be, Google s Sundar Pichai had said. He further revealed that he envisions Google AIs becoming personalized AI for each individuals. ALSO READ: Google I/O 2017: 12 key announcements made at Google s annual developer conference
Looking at the trends and rapid developments in this space, Siri has a long way to go. But it does not mean that Apple cannot achieve it. According to reports, Apple is working on a new chip that is dedicated to AI. Dubbed as Apple Neural Engine (ANE), the chip could be unveiled tonight at WWDC 2017. The technology will further empower Siri that would further make the conversations more natural and capable of taking control of some apps to make things easier.
Adam Cheyer, one of the persons behind the creation of Siri that was later acquired by Apple in 2010, believes it s too early to dismiss Apple s prospects in the AI segment. “I am very proud of what we accomplished to initially take this new paradigm and bring it out to hundreds of millions of people. I think Apple is doing good work and is still a major player in this race,” Cheyer told CNBC.
“What’s going to matter is which companies can elevate an assistant from where it is today, a utility to be this ubiquitous paradigm and I think Apple and everyone else is in the game and it will be great for consumers no matter who wins. Right now there is a race to the single interface where all of the big companies Microsoft, Apple, Amazon and now Samsung are trying to make the assistant the next paradigm like the browser, like the smartphone, you’ll have an assistant to help you in your lives,” Cheyer added.
I mostly agree with Cheyer that a consolidated platform will be more beneficial to users regardless the source OS they are using. That d definitely make a lot of sense. But that s for the future, at the moment, we want these tech bigwigs deliver their best to boost the AI segment, which is still in its early days. And we certainly cannot afford Apple, a market leader in various ways, to be lagging in this space.
Coming back to the Siri speaker, Apple needs to have some new tricks up its sleeves. I am very much certain that the Siri speakers will sell, but it cannot be achieved without a version of Siri, that is smarter, more modern and empowered. With WWDC 2017 just hours away, we hope to find the answers to our questions. ALSO READ: WWDC 2017 live updates: Here s what to expect from Apple s developer conference