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Video: Siri struggles beyond basic Japanese commands

updated 02:00 am EDT, Tue March 13, 2012

Compares moderately against DoCoMo alternative

A video posted on YouTube shows a comparison of Apple's Siri, which only just recently gained Japanese support, against a built-in voice recognition feature developed by DoCoMo, one of Japan's largest carriers. The match-up showed that Siri was able to understand basic and universal Japanese, but had trouble with more complex requests compared to Syabette Concier, an Android app developed for by the carrier, AppleInsider reports.

Both Siri and Syabette Concier debuted in Japan last month, but Syabette has always had a natural advantage by being developed in Japan and solely focusing on Japanese support. The video (seen below) demonstrates that beyond simple, basic commands, Siri takes a backseat to the Syabette program.

Siri is shown being able to answer a simple statement like "konichiwa" ("good afternoon") and provide weather data, set an alarm and pull up a schedule, but did not understand the context of the schedule request, search for videos of a Japanese pop singer, and did not understand a Japanese tongue twister or a statement about cooking curry.

A request seen in the video requesting a map is inherently unfair, as Siri is as yet unable to access location data outside the US (and this is disclaimered in the Japanese version of Siri). Syabette had no problems with the map, the search for videos, the schedule request or the statement on cooking, and generally presented information slightly faster in most cases.

Siri is of course in beta, a fact noted by Apple on its web pages and disclaimers about Siri. The company is hiring "Language Technologies Engineers" to improve Siri's ability to understand accents, non-native speakers and to bring additional languages to Siri. Syabette will remain focused on Japanese language only, but native, localised apps for Android phones like Syabette Concier could prove an advantage in countries where only one language is predominantly spoken, such as Japan.

Siri has trouble with some native English speakers as well. An iPhone 4S owner from Brooklyn has sued Apple, claiming that Siri is far less accurate and responsive than portrayed in its TV commercials. The commercials come with standard disclaimers that some response times have been shortened to fit in the commercial, a technique employed by nearly every advertiser wishing to show a product or service in the allotted 30 seconds of a standard commercial.

by MacNN Staff





  1. aristotles

    Joined: Dec 1969


    They don't really speak english

    Brooklyn people speak an unusual dialect of american english which is hard for outsiders to understand.

  1. DA360

    Joined: Dec 1969


    One big issue: Wolfgram Alpha isn't in Japanese

    I think one of the big issues for Siri in Japanese is that Wolfgram Alpha isn't available in Japanese, nor is there a Japanese equivalent of Wolfgram (very surprisingly). So if you ask it "What's 9 plus 12" in Japanese (9プラス2は何ですか。, Juu purasu ni wa nan desu ka" ) , there's no database for it to go to like there is if you ask it in English were it can get it from Wolfgram. So all it wants to do is suggest a web search.

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969


    That's OK

    Reports are that it's struggling in the US too lately. Apparently it's still in beta for a reason (although one wonders how many users actually know Apple says its really a beta product).

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