Despite Phil Shiller’s remark that it may not be such a good idea to demo Siri, iOS chief Scott Forstall took the stage to demo the feature previously known as Assistant, which 9to5Mac exclusively revealed (here and here). “Siri is your intelligent assistant that helps you get things done just by asking”, says the official tagline. It’s activated just by holding down the home button briefly and understands natural-language queries in English, German and French, with more languages possibly following at later time.

For starters, you can, say, tell Siri to set an alarm clock just by saying “wake me up at 6 AM”. Or, you could ask Siri something like “What time is it in Paris?” and it will speak aloud “The time in Paris, France is 8:16 PM” How nice is that?

How about asking Siri “Do I need a raincoat today”? Sure, you can do that and it’ll respond “It sure looks like rain today”. That’s the power of the DARPA-funded military project striving to create an artificial intelligence-backed personal assistant that learns.

Siri is omni-present throughout the entire operating system so you can issue complex voice commands that include core functionalities. Siri can text messages for you, set calendar appointments, compose and dictate email, look up contacts, create notes, search the web, create geolocation-based reminders such as “remind me to call my wife when I leave work” and lots, lots more.

If there ever was such a thing as a software-based killer feature on a mobile phone, this is it. Also worth noting, the amount of user interface work Apple’s done around Siri is just mind-blowing, as you can see on the included screenshots. It’s not a pretty interface, great speech recognition/synthesis and clever artificial intelligence: Siri taps the power of the web to deliver mash ups that will blow your mind. More examples below the fold:


Images via Engadget

Scott Forstall: “What is the weather like today?”
Siri: “Here is the forecast for today.”
Scott Forstall: “Do I need a raincoat today?”
Siri: “It sure looks like rain today”
Scott Forstall: “Find me a great Greek restaurant in Palo Alto.” Siri retrieves your results from Yelp and lays them out nicely, sorted by rating.

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