Oh Siri, you so silly!

Apple's voice recognition-AI combo was programmed with a sense of humor.

Featured at Apple’s launch of iPhone 4S last week – before we mourned Steve Jobs and then realized the iPhone 4S was headed for a demand tsunami – was a little thing called Siri. As users start playing around with it, they are discovering that Siri has a built-in sense of humor.

One part speech recognition, one part AI, Siri is positioned by Apple as your own little personal assistant trapped inside your iPhone. You talk to it, it recognizes what you are saying, and then it fetches information or sends a message on your behalf.

Some of the early evidence of Siri’s humorous side were brought to light by blogger Joshua Topolsky, as he poked Siri with a stick in such requests as “I need to hide a body” or “Tell me a joke” or “What is the meaning of life?” On that last one, if you buzzed in with “42,” congratulations - but you should know that Siri actually gave Topolsky different answers each time it was asked. Oh yes, Siri is complex. Layered, like an onion, if you will.

Of course, this kind of thing is as old as “AI” itself, which is always more “A” than “I.” The most recent round went to Wolfram Alpha (remember that?), which will still give you “42” as an answer.

There is even a new Tumblr account that appears to be dedicated to what could be a new meme. Right now the page (warning: S-word in big letters, if that bothers you) seems to have not much more than Topolsky’s images, but people are sending in their findings. The page says there are “500+ pending requests and counting.”

On the flipside, early reports are showing that the voice-recognition piece works well enough. And if you limit your interactions to a few key areas, such as finding a nearby restaurant or sending simple messages, you may get the most use out of it. Remember, Apple is saying it’s still in beta.

Macworld Editorial Director Jason Snell prepped an excellent video of the basic features, which we share below. A few things: Note that he asks Siri a question along the lines of “what is the meaning of life?” and that he also tells it to “Open the pod bay doors,” which Topolsky did as well. It’s such a common request that Siri apparently has multiple responses for that one.

Lastly, also note the bit of unintentional humor right around 4:04-4:20.


Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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