by John Varriale

The new Apple iPhone 4S recently made its debut.  It’s faster, takes clearer pictures, is offered by three major carriers and can be used overseas.  However, what has most tongues wagging is a voice recognition feature called Siri.  This is not dictation.  It’s an interactive experience.  Siri knows your schedule better than you do.  It’s a virtual assistant and can handle tasks from simple to more complex.

Many phones have voice recognition technology, but Apple takes this to the next level with the iPhone 4S.  Siri is seamlessly integrated into many features, increasing the ease of use and overall experience.  To activate Siri, hold down the home button on the phone or the control button on your headset device.

Then get ready for the start of a beautiful friendship.

You can use Siri to remind you to buy milk on the way home from work, play your favorite music or check the weather.  If you want to schedule a meeting on your calendar, Siri can do that.  Like a good personal assistant, Siri will even remind you if there is something else scheduled at that time.

I know, you’ve had a bad experience with other voice recognition applications.  You have called your cable provider and found yourself repeating the same simple phrase over-and-over, even shouting in public, “Speak to a representative!”  You’ve been nagged at the supermarket by the check-out machine to perform each basic step, like you are not capable of scanning a loaf of bread.

Siri understands.  Really, she does.  She will respond to your commands in a conversational way.  If her response is not spot-on, just rephrase the question.  No shouting necessary. To lighten the situation, Siri may even reply with a joke to a question you think she may not understand.

As you may have guessed, Siri works well in a hands-free environment.  She will read your text messages and allow you to speak your reply.  Then, she will confirm your message before sending.  Or, if you’re hungry, just ask about restaurants in the area for suggestions.  Feel free to ask about your stocks, set a timer, or check on traffic.

Of course, there are tasks Siri cannot yet perform.  She cannot read your e-mail messages.  At this time, Siri is not compatible with many common phone applications.  She does not give turn-by-turn directions.  Although Siri is fluent in a handful of languages, Spanish is not one of them.

Obviously, there is still room to grow.

Now, if only the supermarket check-out machine would give me a few seconds to place the item in the bag.

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