Apple’s Siri: 6 Things She’ll Never Be Able to Do
For each of the entertaining questions to ask Siri that Apple’s engineers have written an answer for, there are just as many questions that you really shouldn’t ask Siri, at least not if you mind being disappointed. While Apple upgrades Siri’s abilities constantly, and sometimes unveils big improvements with a new version of iOS, there are some questions that Siri can’t answer and tasks that she can’t complete. Of course, we don’t know for sure what the future holds, or the obstacles that Apple’s digital assistant may be able to overcome in the future. But as things stand right now, these are the things that it’s looking like Siri will never be able to do (meanwhile some other virtual assistants are making big strides).
1. Connect to thousands or millions of apps
While Siri can’t yet answer the complicated questions that Viv can handle, we hope that she’ll gain that ability in the future (hopefully sooner rather than later). But what Siri may never be able to do is to take advantage of the rich assortment of third-party integrations with which TechCrunch reports Viv is already equipped. Siri and Viv creator Dag Kittlaus cites the goal of “perfecting the third-party ecosystem” as critical to making Viv useful to consumers.
Steven Levy reported for Wired back in 2014 that when Siri was first launched, it had integrated nearly 45 different services, from AllMenus.com to Yahoo, only for Apple to simplify the assistant significantly. When Apple rolled Siri out to the iPhone, the assistant had just five or six integrations. The result is that while Siri does have a few useful third-party integrations, it continually responds to queries with a basic web search — which Apple apparently prefers to connecting users with third parties that could complete the task at hand. If Apple continues its closed approach with Siri, the assistant will likely stay oblivious to all of the apps you have on your iPhone, which isn’t a good look for a platform with tons of great apps in its App Store.
2. Replace your apps altogether
On a similar note, a capable personal assistant that can connect third-party sources of information and integrate functions from a wide variety of apps and services will likely replace at least a few of the apps that you’d otherwise have to install on your devices — something that Siri may never be able to do. Think of it this way: Would you rather scroll through all of the apps you have on your phone and then type an inquiry into the right one, or just give a voice command to an assistant that can do it for you?
3. Connect the dots in complicated queries
While you can “stack” inquiries made of Viv, Siri has a much shorter memory. Try to ask her a follow-up question, and she’ll completely then forget the context of what was said just a few seconds ago. Assistants like Siri and Google Now can tell you the population of a city or tell you where a celebrity or president was born. But Levy noted that if, for instance, you ask about the population of the city where Abraham Lincoln was born, Siri has no way of connecting those dots. She might be able to find information on both of the components of your question, but doesn’t have the ability to put them together to answer the question. Viv, on the other hand, can automatically generate code to link together third-party sources of information, and another assistant called Hound can answer super-specific inquiries or refine results with follow-up questions.
4. Complete transactions and make purchases for you
You can ask Siri to book you a plane ticket or a purchase a new book from your favorite author, but in either case, she won’t come anywhere close to actually completing the transaction for you. As Nick Statt reported for The Verge when Hound was released for iOS and Android, equipping software with the ability to understand what we’re saying and how we’re saying it should enable assistants like Siri “to parse questions and supply answers, perform tasks on our behalf, and transform how we interact with devices.” So far, that vision hasn’t yet been realized, and Siri simply performs web searches in response to requests that she purchase a ticket or order something from Amazon.
5. Perform tasks that Apple engineers haven’t programmed
As Levy reported a couple of years ago, the idea behind Viv was to go beyond what Apple’s virtual assistant is capable of doing on a fundamental level. Siri can only perform tasks that Apple’s engineers explicitly implement. But Viv is able to teach itself via a technology called “dynamic program generation,” which enables Viv to understand your intent and generate a program to best answer your query. As TechCrunch notes, Kittlaus recently explained that “Instead of having to write every code instructed, you’re really just describing what you want it to do.” That means that in the long run, Viv will be able to use your personal preferences and what Levy described as a “near-infinite web of connections” to answer almost any question or complete almost any task.
6. Run on a platform other than iOS
While the idea behind assistants like Viv is that they’ll be embedded into a wide variety of internet-connected devices, Apple wants Siri to be an assistant that’s exclusive to iOS devices (and perhaps Macs, maybe starting as soon as this fall). Viv is a great example: The assistant’s creators envision Viv as a service that can be licensed by everyone from TV manufacturers to car companies to app developers. They think that Viv’s icon could join the array of universally recognized symbols, like power on, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth.