WWDC : What Weren’t Developers Contemplating…

When Apple announced WWDC on 18th April people were questioning whether it was a mistake or a case of butterfingers by Apple. News broke via Siri. Siri? What does she know? MUST have been a mistake, right?


With it, came the following poem:

- Hello love at first swipe ….…………..TINDER?
- Hello other side of the road …………CROSSY ROAD?
- Hello yogi on my wrist ………………POCKET YOGA?
- Hello driver, fast as you can …………UBER?
- Hello workout in my living room ……7 MINUTE WORKOUT?
- Hello every pitch, every highlight …..MASTER LEAGUE BASEBALL?
- Hello self-combusting selfies …………SNAPCHAT?
- Hello double tap heart ………………INSTAGRAM?
- Hello rain in five minutes …………..DARK SKY?
- Hello 6 minutes of fame …………….VINE?
- Hello big idea ………………………..Mac OS11?

…all indicating voice recognition & integration into likely the above apps & OS (belatedly). I got straight on the wagon, right away…

So why has no one else been talking about Siri until now?

App-uisitions

Apple has also been busy acquiring new companies in recent years with last years purchase of VocalIQ particularly interesting, as mentioned by Brian Roemmele here. Siri has not just needed an injection of new AI but has been fundamentally flawed the way ‘she’ was designed.

Siri has a low IQ and is comparable to a parrot, repeating what it is told and (often, frustratingly) responding imprecisely.

Everything she’s been taught has needed to be hard-coded in. What this acquisition of VocalIQ seems to suggest is that Apple has now the capability to replicate what the team at Viv recently announced, which is an AI voice recognition system that grows and learns and becomes better the more people use it and the more developers adopt it.

Even if the product can only offer slight learning capabilities; no rivals can rival Apple’s device adoption & coverage right now & so despite Apple being relatively late to the game and having been behind the competition to date (*cough* Siri hasn’t been updated on iPhone in 4 years), they could scale the development & intelligence of their voice platform EXTREMELY quickly. This would add fuel to the fire and justify why Apple, a typically closed company, would go open-source on any API.

News then broke last week that Apple is working on an Amazon Echo / Google Home competitor. “Inside” sources mentioned Apple shipping a brand new product with the Siri SDK to share with the world at WWDC. Others, suggested that product would come later.

I believe that to be completely false though. Apple devices are already some of the most adopted in the industry and to release a new ‘AI Assistant’ box with no purpose besides sitting still on the bookshelf in the living room (when the value is in the software) would signify a HUGE waste of Apple’s R&D budget. Especially when Watches remain on our wrists, TV units stay fixed in the room & phones get carried in our pockets wherever we go. Speaker included or not… what is far more likely is that the supercharged technology gets wrapped into Watch OS2, Apple TV OS10, Mac OS11 and so we see upgraded hardware & software for Apple TV and Mac and Watch. It’s been 4 years Steve since we last saw Siri smile, so we’ll take that!

This news and thinking has gained a lot of coverage inside The Verge, Mashable, Wired, 9 to 5 Mac etc etc etc…but what many have failed to contextualise is the impact that this would have on the whole of Apple’s product portfolio. Christmas could come early…

This Will be The Biggest EVER WWDC

So what would Voice Recognition bring to each device? Is it THAT significant?

Apple iPhone

Specific contextual conversations with your phone about when will the next tube or bus arrive or “when do I need to leave the house today for work?”, “how much would Uber cost to take me to Ikea?”, “next exercise please Siri” would transform overnight the way people interact with the most sought-after devices in the world and their most popular apps.

Going from navigating amongst & organising hundreds of apps, to having one single input to call upon and dive directly into timely information..would negate the need for deep navigation controllers.

Better still….being able to drill down and filter that information based upon further inputs & context….you can begin to see how that would be big…can’t you??

No? You wouldn’t talk to your phone on the train to work?

Apple Watch

Ok well for Watch, voice upgrades would change the game & transform its fortunes overnight. Especially when combined with the inevitable hardware & software upgrades that Apple’s “flop” will receive.

We’d see a stampede of Weys rather than Mehs. Haters would become maters & owners would become loners…resorting to Siri for their daily ‘social’ interaction.

Rhymes aside, it would without doubt suddenly make the Apple Watch the product it should always have been. Glances and Complications have attempted to address the biggest problem with the Apple Watch, a lack of interactivity & short attention spans. There are hundreds of cynics who have got nothing back from an Apple Watch besides an expensive timepiece. And millions more WANT to be told it is a masterpiece to justify jumping in & spending more big bucks.

Extending Siri would mean just that and would make navigating through via the Watch Home screen completely unnecessary.

Something so simple as “Siri, ring my phone. I’ve lost it” would scratch a big itch with owners.

“Siri, I’m going for a run” would shock her to the core, but would open up Strava.

“Siri, tell me what’s the next step for this recipe” in FitMenCook™ (Kevin).

This could all be achieved without Siri ever attempting to use Google, her current & default defence mechanism. And yes this is what Siri SHOULD be like, but it has to be this way. If Siri for TVOS is replicated on Watch and requires wearers to dictate “Launch Strava”, “Launch Find My iPhone”…well perhaps we can forget about Siri for another 12 months. That would probably still be far too obtrusive.

That said, allowing users the freedom to choose their default apps for specific commands or create their own commands would be too much complication for them too. I would expect custom commands (such as those mentioned above) to feature and to be called from the background. Then any conflicts to be presented to the user. It would be far more convenient & natural than requesting to launch an app.

My guess would also be that the side button which takes you to the Watch’s contacts app, would become Siri’s trigger on the Watch. The Watch has always suffered and been compromised by its appalling battery performance. And whilst with the iPhone I suspect will always be “listening” for Siri’s name (plugged in or not this time around), the Watch is compromised much more in terms of performance.

Apple TV

Apple sold us a dream last year when Apple TV was portrayed to be intelligent to filter shows & movies based on new criteria. It did well initially to capture people’s imagination by being able to command “turn on subtitles”, “show me only movies by Jack Black & only the new ones”, “play season 2, episode 1” and more impressively “what did they say?” (to go back and rewind) or “launch Photos” (to open other TV OS apps).

However this never felt like Siri had changed her architecture and if she had (Siri the parrot) was still certainly being kept in a cage…to see how users interact with her.

Users are still unable to say “buy” or “rent” when navigating through shows, add songs to playlists, search for Apps in the AppStore or more impressively cater content based on the voice that she hears (something crucial given todays different tastes in TV).

Apple CarPlay

Whilst Siri is said to perform better on four wheels, due to the confined space…truly handsfree driving is way off. Yes Apple is working on a Tesla replacement, but we don’t care about this today. Apple are years away.

When using Siri in the car today, users still have to touch results on screen to navigate through them. It hasn’t felt like a hands-free experience and so cars are crying-out for a context-conscious version of Siri. Hopefully too, she would be listening for her name rather than having to press a button on the wheel (if your car is fitted with one).

Yes dictation of texts is useful and yes she reduces the amount of time spent fiddling with dials and switches but shouldn’t we be able to ask “show me what the traffic is like on the M1 ahead” when attempting to avoid those pesky Sunday drivers?

Apple Mac

Mac has really felt unloved in recent years. The new Macbook was released and drew plaudits. It also still has one USB port…for now! But I’ve never understood why Siri hasn’t been on the Mac until this point.

Multi-tasking (for males especially) is a daunting task but I have often found myself in the middle of a long email or constructing a detailed document and wishing to find a quick way to multi-task. I have to exit the app/window I am using, open the new one and then snap it next to the other so they run side by side.

Wouldn’t it be far more scrumptious to just call on Siri to do that for us? We ask her to search the web for the URL or content in Finder we’re after and in a similar manner to which the Notification Centre appears on the right side, her results animate in without a touch of a button & more importantly without even having interrupted my workflow/typing.


The possibilities would be quite simply endless for developers.

A lot of what I have written above is based upon speculation on my part but it’s an interesting time to think about the direction this could have on the Apple ecoSystem.

I genuinely believe that this shall be the biggest WWDC we have ever had, since iPhone. I believe that because Siri & voice have the opportunity to completely elevate the entire suite of products that Apple offers. Siri has not been upgraded for 4 years really and I find it very troubling and difficult to believe that Apple has done little to innovate over that time, despite planning their redonkulous new offices.

The Questions That Need Answering…

A difficult decision that Apple has (perhaps had) to make is how Siri interacts with these third party apps. I highlighted this above but do users need to call and name the specific app in the command that they wish to interact with? Does Siri present several options back before the content?

There’s also questions like how do developers ‘program’ Siri with these commands, will we see a separate voice platform accompanying Xcode or will this become part of iTunes Connect?

Also which devices does Apple offer support to in the Siri SDK. Recently they’ve rolled out software upgrades exclusively across new products, but this could have such an immense impact on their brand that they may be foolish to restrict it to just those newbies.

Despite all the uncertainty, it’s going to be incredibly exciting what Apple have in store for us in the coming weeks. Just so long as they don’t announce anymore 16GB iPhones…


David West is currently developing voice recognition capabilities for a new iOS tennis app called ScoreLord. We have halted integration of a third party voice recognition service until we can see what Apple has to showcase this coming month. It’s therefore a space of great interest and we’d love to hear your thoughts on what may be around the corner, as well as what you want to see from our product.

Firm believers that sooner or later, voice will be THE choice! If you are too, get in touch…