And Thoughts About Siri and Smart Assistants

With the announcement that Siri is getting smarter, and more integrated with apps, do you think that technology is heading in the right direction for the consumers to be able to access relevant data more easily?

Let me explain ‘my’ reasoning for asking. In my opinion, the old library card catalog still rains supreme as to finding good data. You search the card file, go to the stack that it tells you to, pull the book that has been referred to, open the book, read table of contents to find the page with the data that you are looking for. With our current major internet search engines, we all know that the ad dollars will show up first in the search results, and even then, the data in that link may be useless. It seems to be getting harder and harder for the average user to find the data that they are looking for. Sure, the old library card catalog is also controlled by someone, but at least the advertising dollars do not drive it. All that said, do we feel that the smart assistants are going to be able to wade through the ad dollars and hype data, to get to the meat of what we are searching for, or just continue to serve the highest paid ads first, just like we are getting now.

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In the early days of Yahoo it was “the old library card catalog”. It was a hierarchy maintained by people, not a search engine, and if memory serves the manual system was retired around 1999. Last year we were adding 2.5 quintillion bytes of data each day. That’s a lot of cards to type.

Someone has to pay for search engines. I don’t think anyone wants to see Google behind a paywall. And I don’t think anyone wants their taxes raised to pay for search engines. That leaves advertising. IMO, when ads become too intrusive, their value will decrease, and something will be done to fix the problem (and the cycle will repeat)

As far as smart assistants, I think eventually they will all be excellent and reside in the cloud. And the devices we carry will be dumb and relatively inexpensive.

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All good points WayneG!

Interestingly the latest iteration of online library catalog software (primo) which replaced OPAC (ca. 1990 software) brings back one of the things that was lost with the shift away from physical catalogs - a “virtual browse” feature that lets you scroll through adjoining items in the catalog.

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I didn’t know about Primo! I just did a stroll through it. I like the idea very much. Thanks for sharing dfay!

I think that Siri is heading in the right direction by getting more and more customizable. If Apple keeps enabling us to individually use Siri like they started with the integration of Siri in shortcuts, I think that Siri will not only work with data in the cloud but also with data even on NAS devices. To some degree, it is already possible with Siri shortcuts.

I have high hopes for Siri.

Me personally, I do not think that other assistants like Alexa or Google’s thing are headed into the right direction because I see privacy issues there. And I am not comfortable with that.

In the long run, I do not see an alternative to smart assistants because we need something that answers to our questions when we are not interacting with devices that have a screen and an input method that is based on screen or keyboard input.

What I would love to see is to have Siri working 100% locally without an internet connection for easy stuff like pausing audio, playing audio, changing volume and stuff like that. I get that this is not possible for complicated stuff but it would be feasible in some cases.

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All great points Christian! I too agree, I am looking forward to the day that Siri becomes more of a personal assistant than just canned answers. I believe Apple is heading in that direction already. The web is great, but it has become so full of junk, currently, it is difficult for humans or machine to sort through it all. I feel Apple and Siri will eventually overcome that obstacle. I am excited about the future for sure!

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I’m not sure if I fully agree with this. Although searching for things can be tough at times, in my experience this is because I am searching for incredibly specific information. My general thought with tech and, well pretty much anything, is that we will always push things to their limits.
If technology lets us easily search for something, next time we’ll be greedier and ask for more, and faster. There are ads and things in the way, but then again with a card system I had to get out my chair, and go for a lengthy walk to the library.

As to the main topic, I don’t see any problem with ad dollars driving things, as it needs to be paid for somehow and this opens it up for many people. I don’t see the assistants making any difference in this regard, and I don’t think it’s really their role either.

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All good points also GraemeS.

My comparison to the library card system was simply a reference to its simplicity. I too have no concerns with ads being IN the website, or, on the search engine page, to the side. What I do find as a interference, is all the ad supported returns that we must scroll through to get to the information that we were originally searching for. I was thinking out loud how nice that it would be if Siri could cut through all the noise, and get straight to what we needed. I think making Siri more of a on device ‘personalized’ personal assistant is a great idea.

And another comparison to ‘yuster years.

There was a time, in my life, when to start a car, we must apply the emergency brake to keep it from rolling, ‘mash in’ the clutch, shift the manual transmission into neutral, pump the accelerator three times, pull out the choke, turn the key, and pray that she starts.

I feel that’s where we are at with using search engines today. :sweat_smile:

I think voice assistants are only temporarily bereft of junk. Advertising is going to work its way into them, either through the data sources they pull from or in the speech itself. I would hope Apple’s Siri would mostly stay out of that, but it might not be immune — for example, why wouldn’t there be a voice equivalent of the App Store search ads?

That said, I completely agree we need screen-less interfaces, and I absolutely think natural language is a time-saving way to interact with a computer.

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Good points there cornchip!