If there’s one thing Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak knows how to do, it’s speak his mind, even if the Apple fanboys hate him for it. Good ol’ Woz is well known for his nasty habit of pointing out the areas where Apple’s products may not quite measure up to the competition. Whether it’s that Android does some stuff better than the iPhone, or that Windows Phone is prettier than both, Wozniak has developed a reputation for blunt honesty in his assessment of products made by the company he helped build.
Well, the Woz is at it again. In an impromptu interview with The Times Union in upstate New York, Wozniak discussed his early fascination with Siri back when it was an App Store app and not a baked-in feature of the iPhone. Back then, Wozniak says, Siri was nothing short of amazing. With the app, he could ask about the five largest lakes in California, or which prime numbers are greater than 87, and Siri would return the correct answers. He told all his friends about it, saying that it was the future of how people interacted with mobile devices.
Then Apple got ahold of it and, it was all downhill from there. Now when Wozniak asked about the five largest lakes in California, Siri started returning results for lakefront property. When asked about prime numbers over 87, she looked for restaurants that offered prime rib. The problem, Wozniak says, is the way Siri handles queries. While Siri is able to use Wolfram Alpha for searches, she doesn’t do a good job of distinguishing what should be a Wolfram Alpha search and what should be a Google search (though when she does default to Wolfram Alpha, the results are sometimes hilarious).
This, Wozniak thinks, is Siri’s big problem. The way Siri is now, certain kinds of queries, like asking what flights are overhead right now, require a Wolfram Alpha search. For most of those, you have to actually preface the query with “Wolfram” (you even have to be careful how you say it: “wolfrum” as opposed to “wolf-ram”). Wozniak believes it should be “smart enough” to process a user’s query and determine on its own whether to use Wolfram Alpha, Google, or something else.
Nevertheless, Wozniak called Siri “a mark of where the future is headed,” and that he expects voice interface systems on all platforms to improve in the next few years. Eventually, he says, it will be able to understand when we correct ourselves mid-sentence, i.e., “5, I mean, 6.”
Check out the video for yourself below: