Sunday, October 23, 2011

Not a toy ... a game changer

Of course we all know that there has been a lot of buzz about Siri, Apple's iPhone 4S's sassy personal assistant and latest innovation, or toy, depending on your perspective. There have been a lot of posts in the last few days, showing off some of the frivolous things you can do with Siri.
Rosie from the Jetsons: Assistant extraordinaire
May be able to teach Siri a thing or two
But I see it differently. I'm excited, but not for myself. After all I have an Android phone, which will remain Siri-less. Sure, there are a few apps out there that might approximate Siri's functionality, but I'm excited because it represents leaps and bounds forward for my husband Larry's ability to use his iPhone.

I'm sure that many of you have been texting for years. But until the iPhone 4 arrived on our doorstep 6 months ago, there was no texting for Larry. For those of you not in the know, Larry is blind, and the only phones that he could use were "dumb" phones and certainly there was nothing "smart" about the phones he's had. There was no feedback other than a few beeps and it required a lot of faith that he might actually got through to me when he wanted to - a basic that most of us take for granted. 

There was no using a contact list, the voice activated dial often resulted in "did not understand" or just a yawning silence, because it couldn't match the name in its database, which was frustrating on so many levels.

Enter the iPhone 4. Larry can now do almost everything. With Apple's VoiceOver, its text-to-speech software that is part of both the iOS and OSX operating systems, he can use contact lists, calendars, set alarms, check email, tweet, and listen to music, all on the fly. These are things we've all taken for granted for quite some time.

Apple computers that have been released over the last few years have been equipped with VoiceOver. In our household, we've come to affectionately know VoiceOver's voice as Alex, who we've come to know and love (actually, sometimes it's a love-hate relationship as he gets rather finicky at times). On the iDevices, Samantha is his counterpart. On the iPhone 4S, Samantha works with Siri.

Using this phone, Samantha will continue to work, telling Larry about things that Siri can't quite figure out, while Siri can help with everyday tasks, quickly and efficiently - a good personal assistant if you ask me. Siri brings a new dimension to phones. Best of all, unlike the other text-to-speech apps out there, Siri will understand the difference between what Samantha might be talking about, and what Larry might be saying, and not get confused along the way. 

Again, Siri is not about all fun and games. She's an assistant - a tool. But this is why we can hardly wait to get the iPhone 4S. Despite the naysayers, Siri is not a toy; she's merely in her infancy. As she grows up, I believe she will only get better over time.

And finally, we still have fun with Siri:

You too can try VoiceOver on your own iDevice or Mac. If you are running Leopard or later (the later versions are better):

  • Any Mac computer/laptop running Snow Leopard or Lion (although Leopard will work too, just not as well):  Toggle on/off - Command+F5
  • iPod Touch (v 3 or later), iPhone 4/4S, iPad or iPad2:  Settings+General+Accessibility. 

Tip: Swipe to go through the different elements and double tap to launch apps or select elements.

Now try it with your eyes closed. 

No comments:

Post a Comment