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Apple Spends $200 Million on Lattice Data to Improve Siri

Apple’s Siri was the first voice-driven assistant of its kind on the market, but in some ways, it is being overshadowed by Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s Assistant, and Microsoft’s Cortana. To boost Siri's capabilities, Apple has acquired artificial intelligence company Lattice Data for $200 million, largely for the expertise of its 20 engineers. Lattice Data converts so-called “dark data” like free-form text and images into structured data that computers can understand and use in Siri's responses.favicon follow link

 

Comments about Apple Spends $200 Million on Lattice Data to Improve Siri
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"...it is now being overshadowed by Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s Assistant, and Microsoft’s Cortana."

I keep hearing things like this, but I wonder if it's actually true or just marketing hype being frequently regurgitated even by tech journalists.

For example, my understanding is that Siri is way better in terms of internationalization, i.e. Siri does many more languages/dialects than for example Google and that they're playing massive catch-up in that department. I just read they only recently added German which Siri has had for years.

So what actually is it that Siri cannot do well or that other services do so much better? Is it actual functionality or merely convenience (and that possibly at the expense of privacy)? And is the issue how "smart" a service is (what you mean) or how well it understands (what words you actually said)?
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2017-05-22 14:49
I think it largely comes down to how popular the Amazon Echo and Google Home have become. Siri was around before both by quite a bit, but that didn't stop the Echo in particular from becoming extremely popular, even with people who already had iPhones and Apple Watches. With it, Amazon created an entire class of device, whereas Siri remains limited to iOS devices that seldom meet the same interaction desires.

When we say "overshadowed," we're trying to imply that the Echo is more in the light, and thus casting a shadow on Siri behind it.

It's impossible to compare any other way, since there are no hard numbers available, and comparing on technical grounds doesn't really fit the bill if people are happy to use the technically less capable option regardless.
I see. I guess then my question would be, is Echo "more in the light" simply because Amazon's huge PR department is marketing it like nuts while Apple is treating Siri like just another iPhone feature (these days all they seem to be marketing is the cameras). Or is it because you actually do things on Echo these days that you simply cannot do with Siri?
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2017-05-22 15:33
The Echo is getting a lot of mindshare, some due to Amazon's marketing efforts (like the Super Bowl ad), but a lot just because it seems like magic to non-technical users. And yes, Siri is just another feature in the iPhone.

But what I think is really different is that the Echo is a standalone device that's in a predictable location and state at all times. That makes it ideal for any audio-based content like music or podcasts.

So it's not that Siri can't be used to play music or get the answer to a trivial question, but that Siri so often isn't available without extra physical manipulation. Even using Siri on the Apple Watch requires raising your wrist and waiting for the screen to light up. (And then, of course, Siri can't do nearly as much on the watch itself.)

A voice interface should be truly hands-free, and Siri just isn't much of the time.
Josh Centers  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2017-05-22 15:41
In my experience, all the voice assistants are about equal, they're just stupid in different ways. Siri's negative perception comes from misunderstanding simple queries. Assistant and Alexa are better at the simple stuff, but fall down when doing some of the more complex stuff Siri does.
Michel Hedley  2017-05-24 10:21
I agree with you on Siri' inability to answer the simple stuff - so frustrating particularly as Siri can't seem to 'go back' and start again.
Some of Siri's problems are due to some of the hamfisted way Apple has written its basic apps such as Contacts and Calendar and Mail.
To avoid Siri going all over the place, I now stick to very simple instructions.
I dont use Siri as much as a I once did.