Apple is working on changing the inciting phrase "Hey Siri" to simply "Siri" to make it easier for customers to engage with the virtual assistant.
The quickest way to launch the virtual assistant on any Apple device is with the phrase, “Hey Siri.” But the tech giant wants to make the process even easier by training its voice assistant to respond to commands without needing the first half of the prompt phrase. While it seems like a small change, the switch is a technical challenge that requires a significant amount of AI training and engineering work.
According to Bloomberg, Apple has been working on the change for months. And if the plan goes off without any problems, the company hopes to introduce the updated Siri in the coming year. The tech giant is currently testing the simplified wake word with employees and collecting the necessary training data. But the difficult part is getting the digital assistant to understand the singular phrase in multiple accents and dialects.
Having two words increased the likelihood of the Apple system properly picking up the signal. Lian Jye Su, a Research Director at ABI Research, explained the process to CNN Business saying, “During the recognition phase, the system compares the voice command to the user-trained model.” He added that because “Siri” is much shorter than “Hey Siri,” the system has fewer comparison points and a higher error rate in large rooms and noisy environments.
The iPhone maker has also been working on other changes which will integrate Siri deeper into third-party apps and services. This will improve its ability to understand users and take the correct course of action. The move would also allow Apple to catch up with Amazon’s “Alexa” prompt that doesn’t require a two-word phrase. Microsoft moved away from “Hey Cortana” in 2018, before shutting down its voice assistant last year. But Google still requires the “OK Google” prompt for most product requests.
The Siri update would also come at a time when Apple, Amazon, and Google are collaborating on the Matter automation standard, which allows automation and Internet of Things devices from different vendors to interoperate. With this in mind, Principal Analyst at CCS Insight James Sanders said doubling efforts on improving Siri functionality is likely a priority for the tech giant.
He added that although the change requires a considerable amount of work, it would be surprising if Apple only announced one update for Siri. “Considering the rumored timing, I would anticipate this change to be bundled with other new or improved functionality for Siri,” he said via CNN Business. This could include a new model of HomePod and integrations with other smart home products.
Siri was launched in February 2010 as a standalone iOS app before the digital assistant was acquired by Apple two months later. A year later, the company integrated Siri into the iPhone 4S. The “Hey Siri” function, which could summon the assistant without physically touching a button, was introduced in 2014. Although Siri has gotten smarter over time, users still have trouble getting it to understand some commands.
Always working on improving the user experience, Apple recently made some small tweaks to the voice assistant, adding a new voice recorded by an LGBTQ+ community member and introducing a new Siri activation sound, NDTV reports.