All of Apple’s OSes Should Get Comprehensive Instruction Manuals

April 9, 2018 · 11:24

This is but one example of the hundreds, if not thousands, of hidden features inside iOS, macOS, watchOS, tvOS, and Siri. There are so many of these right now, that I don’t know a single person who would be aware of all of them. I read one of my own tips, which I published a few years ago, and was amazed that something like that was possible, and that I did not remember it1.

P.S. If you’re on macOS and don’t know the following keyboard shortcuts, make sure to memorise them — they’re really useful:

  1. I have since forgotten it again.

Apple Hires Google’s A.I. Chief →

April 4, 2018 · 09:37

Jack Nicas and Cade Metz, for The New York Times:

Apple has hired Google’s chief of search and artificial intelligence, John Giannandrea, a major coup in its bid to catch up to the artificial intelligence technology of its rivals.

Apple said on Tuesday that Mr. Giannandrea will run Apple’s “machine learning and A.I. strategy,” and become one of 16 executives who report directly to Apple’s chief executive, Timothy D. Cook.

Perhaps iPhone-Siri will be able to talk to HomePod-Siri and Apple-TV-Siri next year and be able to control them. Or know how to set more than one timer at the least.


Hey Siri, Set the HomePod’s Volume

March 16, 2018 · 13:04

I discovered an interesting tidbit regarding setting the HomePod’s volume:

  1. The buttons on top of the HomePod change the volume in 5% increments on each tap.
  2. The voice command “Hey Siri, louder / quieter”, “Hey Siri, increase / decrease the volume”, etc. changes the volume in 10% increments.

Also, Siri really shouldn’t need to hear the “Hey” in “Hey Siri” every single time I need something from her.

“Siri, just do it.”


RIP Stephen Hawking →

March 14, 2018 · 11:09

Stephen Hawking – who died aged 76 – battled motor neurone disease to become one of the most respected and best-known scientists of his age.

Today, we all lost a truly great person.


When I learned about Stephen Hawking’s passing on the radio today, I asked Siri how old he was. She answered:

Stephen Hawking died today at age 76.

I was of course saddened by the news of his death, but I was also surprised that Siri got the answer.


The Original Siri App Compared to Siri Today →

March 12, 2018 · 09:33

Nick Heer, on Pixel Envy:

What’s clear to me is that the Siri of eight years ago was, in some circumstances, more capable than the Siri of today. That could simply be because the demo video was created in Silicon Valley, and things tend to perform better there than almost anywhere else. But it’s been eight years since that was created, and over seven since Siri was integrated into the iPhone. One would think that it should be at least as capable as it was when Apple bought it.

I’m currently playing around with Siri a lot more than I used to and I find it baffling that after so many years, she still can’t do so many things which seem natural and obvious. Examples attached: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. Basically, I expect so much more of her today, that she feels stupider than back in 2011, when she launched on the iPhone 4S.


A Simple Design Flaw Makes It Astoundingly Easy to Hack Siri and Alexa →

September 7, 2017 · 12:06

Mark Wilson:

Chinese researchers have discovered a terrifying vulnerability in voice assistants from Apple, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Samsung, and Huawei. It affects every iPhone and Macbook running Siri, any Galaxy phone, any PC running Windows 10, and even Amazon’s Alexa assistant.

Using a technique called the DolphinAttack, a team from Zhejiang University translated typical vocal commands into ultrasonic frequencies that are too high for the human ear to hear, but perfectly decipherable by the microphones and software powering our always-on voice assistants. This relatively simple translation process lets them take control of gadgets with just a few words uttered in frequencies none of us can hear.

The researchers didn’t just activate basic commands like “Hey Siri” or “Okay Google,” though. They could also tell an iPhone to “call 1234567890” or tell an iPad to FaceTime the number. They could force a Macbook or a Nexus 7 to open a malicious website. They could order an Amazon Echo to “open the backdoor.” Even an Audi Q3 could have its navigation system redirected to a new location. “Inaudible voice commands question the common design assumption that adversaries may at most try to manipulate a [voice assistant] vocally and can be detected by an alert user,” the research team writes in a paper just accepted to the ACM Conference on Computer and Communications Security.


Apple Speaker — Rumours Say Apple Is Finalising Its Design →

April 28, 2017 · 17:09

Joe Rossignol writing for MacRumors:

Apple is widely rumored to be working on a Siri-based smart home device with a speaker, and Australian leaker Sonny Dickson has shared new details about its possible design and features on Twitter and with MacRumors.

I actually thought the ‘Apple Speaker’ with Siri on-board was dead and that the company would focus on just using the device closest to you, be that an iPhone, iPad, Mac, or Apple TV.

Dickson was told Apple’s smart speaker could be unveiled at WWDC 2017 in early June, but as always, the company’s plans could change.

That would actually surprise me, especially since the iPads are still waiting for an update and the MacBook Adorable for a speed bump.

In the meantime, Siri still makes little sense in countries without language support, even for people who know English well enough.

‘Hey, Siri! What’s the population of Wrocław, Poland?’

Hmm… Well that’s an improvement! I genuinely did not expect it to catch my hometown’s name, especially since it’s not pronounced ‘rock-law’. Now Siri, please start understand foreign street addresses in a similar fashion!


Samsung Acquires Viv, a Next-Gen AI Assistant Built by Creators of Apple’s Siri →

October 7, 2016 · 08:57

Matthew Panzarino:

Samsung has agreed to acquire Viv, an AI and assistant system co-founded by Dag Kittlaus, Adam Cheyer and Chris Brigham — who created Siri, which was acquired by Apple in 2010. The three left Apple in the years after the acquisition and founded Viv in 2012. Pricing information was not available, but we’ll check around.

Viv has been billed as a more extensible, powerful version of Siri.

Viv will continue to operate as an independent company that will provide services to Samsung and its platforms.

I don’t think Apple should have let them go, but then again, acquiring the same team for the second time seems ethically wrong.


Siri Isn’t Yet Using the Context Available to Her →

September 1, 2016 · 14:59

Dr. Drang:

So as I was hunting, Siri kept patiently telling me how to get to the airport. When I didn’t see a gas station after a few blocks worth of looking, I gave up and asked her for directions to the closest one.

“Starting route,” she replied. “Head north on Isenberg Street.”

This is why I couldn’t bring myself to read Steven Levy’s new article on how Apple is making great advances in machine learning. The iBrain is already inside my phone? No, not yet.

You see, when Siri told me to head north on Isenberg, I was traveling south on Isenberg. In that circumstance, “head north” is a stupid instruction to give.

Siri knew perfectly well I was going south on Isenberg. Not half a minute earlier, she’d been telling me how to turn off Isenberg to get to the interstate. And she’d been tracking my location continuously since I left the hotel. The context was there, but it wasn’t used.

Siri is still missing a new major motorway from its database in Poland. I reported it months ago. So somehow the above does not surprise me one bit.


People often say they want Siri to act more like a human being. I hope Apple sets the bar higher than that.

Dr. Drang

Siri Reportedly Coming to OS X 10.12 (Codenamed ‘Fuji’) →

February 24, 2016 · 16:39

Mark Gurman:

Instead of integrating Siri as a swipe menu akin to the Mac’s Notification Center or as a full screen view like on the iPhone and even the iPad Pro, Siri for the Mac will live in the Mac’s Menu Bar. Similar to the Spotlight magnifying glass icon for search and notifications icon for Notification Center, a Siri icon in the top right corner of the menu bar will activate the voice control feature.

At last! I hope Siri also gains the ability to understand multiple languages in one sentence, eg. ‘Hey Siri, give me travel directions to Grande Anse des Salines’.

Siri on the Mac will have its own pane in System Preferences and users are said to also have the option to choose a keyboard shortcut for activating the service. Like with recent versions of iOS, users will be able to enable Siri at the first startup of OS X 10.12, according to sources. If the Mac running the new OS X version is plugged into power, a “Hey Siri” command will work much like with recent iPhone and iPad models.

That would be strange, especially considering the ‘Hey Siri’ works on the most recent iPhones and iPads without the devices needing to being plugged in.


Siri on CarPlay is Far from Brilliant →

November 23, 2015 · 09:30

Matthew DeBord:

Siri on CarPlay, however, is brilliant. It’s like having K.I.T.T. or J.A.R.V.I.S. or the computer from “Star Trek: The Next Generation” installed in your dashboard. You speak simple voice commands, like “Send a text” or “Find me a Starbucks” and Siri responds. It reads your texts and reads them mellifluously. Its machine brain understands your human diction — better, it seems, in a car.

I had the pleasure of driving a Golf R recently and the whole CarPlay experience is simply terrible. I don’t remember anything as bad—ever—since I started driving cars over twenty years ago. Siri is fine if you only use English, but until she can simultaneously read and listen in at least two languages, I’ll do anything and everything to avoid CarPlay in any future cars I might have.