Siri’s Accuracy: A Work in Progress

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The iPhone’s Siri voice assistant may be able to tell Zooey Deschenel the weather outside even if she can’t tell, but its overall average isn’t that great, according to one analyst’s tests.

Apple SiriThe tests were conducted by Gene Munster of Piper Jaffray, not your usual suspect when it comes to hardware testing, as Munster is a financial analyst working on Wall Street. Munster assembled a team of testers and in total made 800 Siri queries in a quiet room, and then 800 more queries outside on a busy street.

Munster found that in the quiet room tests, Siri’s comprehension of the question was 89% and the accuracy of its response was 68%. For the outdoor tests, comprehension was 83% and accuracy of answers was only 62%. Some of the questions that Siri failed to answer:

  • “What team does Peyton Manning play for?” Siri would respond with the answer to the previous query.
  • “Where is Elvis buried?” Siri looked for a person named “Elvis Buried.”
  • “Where am I?” Sometimes a map pin would be dropped in the wrong place.
  • “When did the movie Cinderella come out?” Siri would attempt to find current theater movie times via Yelp.
  • “How do I get from Boston to New York?” Siri responded: “I can only give directions from your current location. I can’t give you directions to a place you are not in.”

The challenge to Siri is context, with the Cinderella question the most obvious. Context and the relationship between words seem to be its weak spot. It also doesn’t seem to like bad sentence structure, like the Peyton Manning question. But Munster wrote in his report “With the iOS 6 release in the fall, we expect Siri to improve meaningfully while reducing its reliance on Google.”

And Siri should improve as users learn how to word their questions and Apple tweak it further, said Jim McGregor, principal analyst with Tirias Research.

“Siri is like any voice application, it learns over time and use just like the user. The same could actually be said about many smartphone text editors. The user becomes accustomed to the quirks of the software and the software isn’t really an AI, but it should have algorithms for the most common commands of the user. It’s like anything else on these mobile devices, the more you use it, the more accustomed you are to it,” he said.

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