Woz: “A lot of people say Siri. I say poo-poo”

By , Jun 14, 2012

The other Steve never shied away from criticizing the company he co-founded with Steve Jobs in his parents’ garage back in 1976. The Times Union chatted briefly with everyone’s favorite geek during his visit to a New York farm of rescued horses and of course the inevitable question of Siri criticism came up. Here’s what came out of him…

The Woz was a big fan of the original Siri app that got removed prior to the iPhone 4S launch last October, as much as to tell family and friends about it and how “this was the future: speaking things in normal ways, feeling like you’re talking to a human and how Siri was the greatest program”.

According to the paper:

A lot of people say Siri. I say poo-poo. I was using it to make reservations long before Apple bought it.

Describing his experience with the original Siri app, he pointed out how it used to excel at digging up some impressive factual answers:

I would say, ‘Siri, what are the five largest lakes in California?’ and it would come up, one, two, three, four, five. And I would ask ‘What are the prime numbers greater than 87?’ and they would come up all in a row. That was pretty incredible.

Then came Apple, Woz said, slowly pointing his thumb down.

‘What are the largest lakes in California?’ I’d get all these lakefront properties. And I’d say ‘What are the prime numbers greater than 87?’ And I’d get prime rib.

Of course, you could spin the comment in the opposite direction and call it a compliment coming from such an esteemed inventor.

After all, we’re only barely eight months into this revolution. Plus, we’ve yet to learn about Google’s answer to Siri.

“I’m really disappointed, but it’s still a market for the future”, the Woz quipped, observing:

I think voice recognition for all the platforms is going to get better and better and better at putting together complete sentences and phrases.

What did a human really mean? Like, if you said ‘Five, I mean six.’ It will understand a backup, the little faults in our speech that humans understand. It will understand that eventually.

Be that as it may, Siri by no mean is a marketing gimick, despite Apple’s over the top ads. There’s a lot of very real potential here and she’s only going to improve over time.

As you know, Siri pulls many facts from the Wolfram Alpha database. Wolfram Alpha is a brilliant search engine and knowledge base which, for example, helps Siri tell you if a plane is flying above your head by sourcing real-time flight data from the Federal Aviation Administration.

The famous geek is no stranger to dissing Siri. Wozniak described back in January how he had a lower success rate with Siri than he did with “the voice built into the Android”.

Here the quote:

I’ll be saying, over and over again in my car, “Call the Lark Creek Steak House,” and I can’t get it done. Then I pick up my Android, say the same thing, and it’s done. On the 4S I can only do that when Siri can connect over the internet.

But many times it can’t connect. I’ve never had Android come back and say, ‘I can’t connect over the internet. Plus I get navigation. Android is way ahead on that.

Well, I guess Apple’s new Maps in iOS 6 with turn-by-turn navigation, spoken directions and Siri integration will appeal to Wozniak.

Here’s a video snippet of The Times Union interview with the Woz.

Unfortunately, Siri still requires network connectivity and that’s unlikely to change because voice recognition, resolving queries and artificial intelligence all run on Apple’s servers.

Also, and this is speaking from my personal experience with iOS 6 Beta, Siri now seems way faster and more accurate, plus it finally runs location searches abroad.

As noted in Jeff’s video demonstration, other notable Siri enhancements in iOS 6 include the ability to launch apps, update social statuses on Twitter and Facebook, make restaurant reservations, as well as search for movies, check out sports scores and player stats.

She’s also learned to speak Chinese, Korean, Italian and other languages and, as a bonus, plays nicely with the iPad 3.

Is Woz being too hard on Siri?

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  • Loopthree

    Then came Apple, Woz said, slowly pointing his thumb down.
    ‘What are the largest lakes in California?’ I’d get all these lakefront properties. And I’d say ‘What are the prime numbers greater than 87?’ And I’d get prime rib.

    Comedy Gold! :D

    • http://twitter.com/MCaudebec Maxim∑

      yeah because we all care about “lakefront properties”…..

  • http://twitter.com/oneBurge Burge

    Siri is a lot better on iOS 6 beta.. And it’s a beta.. But the battery is not that good.. Downgrading back right now to 5.1.1 .. I miss my jailbreak ..

  • http://twitter.com/Mlindberg7 Mathias Lindberg

    Siri is what no one wants such a feature to be, she’s a person. She talks back to you, she has opinions on certain topics. People don’t want special error messages, no, they wan’t things done. I gotta tell ya, Microsoft TellMe can’t do a lot, but it gets the things done in secs and it actually works. Siri is a concept, it’s not real, we just don’t use it.

    • billypuntove

      Definitely speaking for yourself there :/

  • Klaus Wittig

    I completely agree with mr woz. Siri is great and all but when it gets to the point where I’m waiting over 30 seconds to get a response from her it gets a bit annoying when I could have done the same action in less than half the time myself. That is if I even get through to her. When I leave my home and I need directions somewhere before I get to the car, my iPhone can’t figure out that the wifi signal is too weak and that it needs to switch over to 3g and I get the “I’m sorry about this but I can’t connect.. bla bla”. Otherwise using Siri to text people hands-free and do simple math is great. But the phone should know to use 3g as a back-up if wifi isn’t working. Duh. Hopefully iOS 6 is better like the article says!

    • thor_molecules

      Your issues seem to mirror mine. Siri for me is great when it works, but therein lies the problem.

      Half the time I get “sorry but I can’t connect” and when it does, it will chug along for maybe 30 seconds before coming back with “I’m sorry but I can’t find anything, would you like to search the web for that?”

      Throw in the 3-4 times I have to repeat myself so it understands me correctly, and you may as well just skip it and go back to typing. In my mind, until Siri actually works reliably it is little more than a marketing gimmick.

  • Marty Cunnane

    I’m on iOS 6 and it seems to me that siris voice changed. Anyone else noticed this

    • http://www.idownloadblog.com/author/dujkan Christian Zibreg

      Yeah, sounds more robotic now and has less emotion to her voice…

    • http://twitter.com/Steeeeeeeeeeezy Domenico Michael

      Yes. It’ll change back. When you get a new iPhone it also has the “old” Siri voice.

  • Santi Hervella

    I agree with him! But Woz, 91 is not prime… Haha, love that guy though, seriously.

  • Alvin Mendez

    Hmm, it gives me the largest lakes in Cali….?

    Maybe he used it when it only first came out

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000027514739 Will Fancher

    I think people who never tried the original Siri won’t have any idea how much better it was. I thought the integrated Siri was a huge step down

    • EricArmstrongg

      I was so impressed with the original Siri app. I don’t have an iPhone 4S, but in my few experiences using it, I was less impressed than I thought. But, I do think it’s awesome that Apple’s Siri can use the stock apps, like messages, clock, calendar, etc. This ability kind of changed the way people use it I think.

  • http://www.facebook.com/cngaunt Chris Gaunt

    I’m sorry, but even when Woz is actually right I still smell sour grapes. 

  • K1N6P1N

    Althought I do agree with Woz, lately it seems he has been anti-Apple.

    • YujinNY

      If you founded a company that became the most powerful in the world and you were completely outshined by the other Steve. I would say you will still have some very hurt feelings.

  • EricArmstrongg

    Jeff: “When’s the NEXT NBA game?”
    Siri: “Here are the scores from the LAST NBA game.”

    I stopped watching after that.

    • House Lannister

      I don’t see any meetings about ‘NBA game’  I got…lol

  • http://www.GoldenGateDomains.com/ Golden Gate Domains

    NO!  Woz is not being too hard on Siri – especially if Siri had the capabilities BEFORE Apple purchased the technology – why was it stripped of those advanced features?

    Also, I wonder how many Engineers at Apple have the competing Android devices?  I thought that was perhaps the most insightful comment Woz made – he used Siri to try to find a place, then tried it on Android, and Android accomplished the task!  That has to make Woz disappointed!!!  

  • http://twitter.com/MCaudebec Maxim∑

    new disqus……..

  • http://www.facebook.com/antman217 Anthony Antunez

    I used Siri before Apple bought it and I agree with Woz that it was way better but I have to say that Siri in iOS 6 blows the old Siri app out of the water.

  • http://twitter.com/Dongiuj DonGiuj

    Ever thought that a company has a tech but limits it so it can make it look like they have improved it later to sell it as an “upgrade” for a newer model just to get people to spend more money? It’s very highly possible that a company can and has done this. Control the tech to squeeze every last penny out of the consumer.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000822291379 Alan Bynum

    I do have problems with siri catching what i say, so i do have to speak more clearly. Mr. Woz is right though. before apple acquired siri it was quite good at catching what i say. But knowing apple, siri’s flaws will be fixed. Ha

  • RLst

    “Unfortunately, Siri still requires network connectivity and that’s unlikely to change because voice recognition, resolving queries and artificial intelligence all run on Apple’s servers.”

    Well no sh*t it requires a internet connection. Apple isn’t stupid enough to put AI algorithms onto the device itself so that brainless a**holes like google, samsung and well everyone else can disassemble and reverse engineer the source code, copy/steal it and then pretend its there own. Keep it in the cloud so the bastards can’t get to it…

    • maurid

      Calm down, dude.

  • http://twitter.com/macboy76 Michael Alejandro

    As far as the Siri shots its their software what is it to say galaxy tab?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2JFDZXSTUH2HWGIM6NSZX66KWA Kurt

    yeah it does seem siri is way way way faster! That’s awesome

  • Ronald Weaver

    I bet the Woz has jailbroken devices! Like this if u agree.

  • YujinNY

    The thing with woz is that he has lost touch with reality because he is very rich, a techie and is expectations are abnormal compared to he average guy using one. There is a reason, why he was not the showman at apple…but just an engineer. He is the perfect user for android cause he is a tech guy and he loves to tweak and get pizza using an NFC chip connected to his microwave…the truth is people just want simple user interface that gets them results…sure Siri is web enable and is a major concern but I bet apple may just update it to address this…remember tis was a beta and apple has had months to tweak it, and is sitting on millions of gigabytes of user data that will help improve… I just want to see what apple will do with it on ios 6 and how is implemented once it is released

  • Dan

    I liked Siri since it was easier to text, set up alarms and timers and entries in my calendar. For the time I used it, I thought it was really useful. But I dropped Spire since it really bogged down my iPhone 4.