Siri’s Gone M.I.A.

But Apple still has some A.I. tricks up its sleeve

Dave Gershgorn
OneZero
Published in
4 min readJun 5, 2019

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Siri used to be one of the most important elements of Apple’s software lineup.

But at the company’s Worldwide Developers Conference on Monday, the virtual assistant got about as much attention as a $999 monitor stand. Maybe less.

Siri is so central to Apple’s software that it’s the only real application you can launch with a physical button, but the most substantial new feature it’s been given since 2011 are user-built “shortcuts,” which was launched last year.

Of course, Siri isn’t the only reason Apple develops artificial intelligence. The addition of accessibility features like Voice Control and Augmented Reality show that the company is working to refine speech understanding and computer vision. But virtual personal assistants have become a crown jewel for tech companies, a concrete marker to show how advanced these companies have become.

For some reason, Apple has stopped playing the game.

These conferences, for better or worse, have become events for large tech companies to lord their research department’s prototypes over an audience of developers hoping to piggyback off the technology for their own applications. Google and Microsoft have tried to make big splashes with A.I. product and prototype announcements. Even Samsung is trying to figure out new uses for its “Bixby” assistant.

Virtual personal assistants are the best example of this showboating. They’re easily demonstrable, and the initial success of Alexa and Siri suggests many people understand how they work. (See: “The Octogenarians Who Love Amazon’s Alexa.”)

Last month at Microsoft Build, CEO Satya Nadella introduced an upcoming version of Cortana he promised would be far more conversational and aware of context from calendar invites and emails. A day later, Google announced an entirely hands-free workflow with the Google Assistant, which will soon process voice commands on the Pixel phones without having to connect to Google servers. On the Siri front, Apple announced… just about nothing.

Apple might be putting A.I. somewhere in its lineup of products, but it’s definitely not putting it…

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Dave Gershgorn
OneZero

Senior Writer at OneZero covering surveillance, facial recognition, DIY tech, and artificial intelligence. Previously: Qz, PopSci, and NYTimes.