Apple used its WWDC event to announce a series of changes to Siri and search. Apple’s objective with these “proactive” capabilities is to improve the user experience on the iPhone. An underlying objective is to hopefully catch up with Google (Now) and Microsoft. Both of their “assistants” have become more sophisticated than Siri and have also expanded their uses.
The Siri and search announcements came during an 8th June presentation by Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president with responsibility for software engineering. Federighi told his audience that there has been a 40 per cent improvement in the accuracy and speed of Siri speech recognition and natural language understanding during the past year. Federighi offered a demonstration of some of the new functions and used a number of user queries as part of a hypothetical scenario. These included the terms “Show me photos from last August” and “Remind me about this when I get home.” The latter term was in respect of a scenario whereby a user wishes to capture in-app or web links being viewed at a moment in time.
Siri is being updated to deliver context-sensitive content using the location of users, as well as the time and their search behaviour in the past. An updated Spotlight Search, accessed by swiping left on the home screen, will offer Siri suggestions on people, music, apps and local information using the same user criteria. Spotlight Search will also provide in-app deep linking, in a move that will also give a boost to similar developments by both Google and Facebook.
Apple has been developing incremental changes to its search capability in respect of both PC and mobile. A scenario whereby Apple becomes a direct substitute for Google in search is unlikely to unfold, but it is likely that Apple can continue to attract a greater proportion of usage that might otherwise have gone to Google – searches for articles on sport or weather forecast content might be two such examples. In fact, Apple’s improved search functions could ultimately have the greatest effect on Maps and local search.
WWDC is the annual Apple Worldwide Developers Conference. The 2015 edition opened on 8th June and runs until 12th June.