updated 10:51 am EDT, Fri June 29, 2012
Voice tech does only modestly better indoors than out
Apple's Siri voice command system is still probably an inferior choice for searches versus Google text entries, according to a study by researchers at Piper Jaffray. Analyst Gene Munster and his team tested Siri first with 800 queries in a quiet room, without using headphones, and then with another 800 queries out on a busy Minneapolis street, but using Skull Candy mic-equipped headphones. Indoors Siri understood 89 percent of queries, accurately answering 68 percent of questions. Outdoors it faired slightly worse, with rates of 83 and 62 percent, respectively.
By comparison, Google text searches returned answers with 86 percent accuracy. "We believe the most likely substitute for Siri is Google text input on the iPhone, not the Google voice search app," Munster tells AppleInsider.
Some of the questions that confused Siri include "What team does Peyton Manning play for," "Where is Elvis buried," "Where am I," "When did the movie Cinderella come out," and "How do I get from Boston to New York." Some of these have exposed fundamental problems with the technology. With the Elvis question, for instance, Siri would search for a person named "Elvis Buried." Asking "where am I" would sometimes drop a map pin in the wrong place, and the Boston-to-New York question prompted Siri to answer with "I can only give directions from your current location. I can't give you directions to a place you are not in."
An irony is that Siri is thought to rely on Google for about 60 percent of its answers. Munster suggests that this ratio will drop to 48 percent with the launch of iOS 6, since Apple is moving away from Google for both mapping data and sports scores. "While Siri is two-plus years behind Google today, we are optimistic about its future," says Munster. "With the iOS 6 release in the fall, we expect Siri to improve meaningfully while reducing its reliance on Google."