Is Apple getting Siri-ous in the face of Amazon's Alexa Echo?

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  • Reply 61 of 155
    mike54mike54 Posts: 185member
    One thing that Amazon is far behind is that all this Echo stuff is US centric only. If you live in the US bubble it maybe good, but there's a whole world out here and Amazon means alot less than it does for you.

    The trouble with Apple is that they don't assign enough full time staff working on for example Siri, if they did, it certainly would of improved alot more by now. They hire the minimum staff to work long hard hours and there no time or energy for ongoing improvement. They think it saves money, but its not a plan for the future. They need more full time staff, working less hours, on projects, with time to train new comers, and with enough fat in the system to cater for holidays and sick leave. The staff come first, then the customer.
  • Reply 62 of 155
    cfccfc Posts: 13member
    I use Alexa more times each week than I have used Siri in 5 years of having it.  It is great for playing songs, radio stations (I’m currently listening to a football match on it), news headlines, weather etc.  It doesn’t do anything that I can’t do on a phone, but it’s so much easier to ask it across the room than to take my phone out of my pocket and hope that Siri understands me.  The speaker is a lot better too.

    The Echo and Dot have only been out for a few months here in the UK but already I know loads of people who have got one, especially over Xmas.  And they are all impressed.

    I’m not knocking Apple; Siri was a great leap forward when it came out, but it doesn’t seem to have progressed very much to me.  Dozens of other languages are all well and good but it doesn’t seem any better at recognising English than it was 5 years ago.

    I think some areas of Apple should be very worried about Alexa.  For instance Apple Music.  I love the way that I can ask Alexa to play a song and most of the time is is available from Amazon Prime.  I am now pretty sure that I will switch my Napster account to Amazon Music Unlimited (for 40 million songs instead of 2 million), which is a third cheaper than the competition and allows voice control via Alexa.  I have Sonos, so when the Echo/Sonos link comes out later this year then that will be a fantastic combination.

    I don’t know if voice AI is the next big thing in home technology, but it certainly could be, and if it is then Apple are seriously behind the competition at the moment, despite having had a big head-start in the field.

    anantksundaram
  • Reply 63 of 155
    rob53 said:
    Soli said:
    This is especially true for the Google and Amazon offerings. Having those things listening all the time is just not on. If you care about your personal security then just don't use these things. Do you really want a feed of your home conversations to the NSA, GCHQ and worse, the FSB? And one that you have to pay for out of your own money?
    Just go read/watch 1984 and see what Orwell wrote in 1948 and how close these things are to 'Big Brother'.

    Sorry, no, just no.
    Can you shut the fuck up with this ridiculous, myopic conspiracy theory. You have fucking microphones around you every day of your life, but because there's a device listening for the keyword "Alexa" you've jumped to the erroneous conclusion that it's not just listening for the keyword "Alexa" but also recording everything you're saying; yet you've completely ignored the glaring fact that your smartphone, tablet, PC, and many other devices have microphones and cameras built into them and you have no fucking idea if they're secretly recording what you're doing at any given time. And I bet you install 3rd-party apps on your devices without making sure that you've read and understood every line of the code to make sure that they aren't subverting the terms of use and gathering data about your usage patterns in ways you're not even aware. I fucking hate you tinfoil-hat idiots that can't see the forest for the trees.
    Soli, I think you need to get your head out of the sand. http://www.cbsnews.com/news/amazon-echo-data-evidence-in-murder-case/ already shows the police force is going after any kind of information they can. They also went after a smart water thermometer. This isn't a conspiracy theory, it's already happening. Yes, we have all kinds of microphones and cameras around us but for the most part, Apple has tried to make sure these components don't work without the user knowing about it. As for Amazon and Google, their business is selling people's information to others. That's not Apple's business. If you don't believe the NSA is pushing for access to these network-based communication devices (or they already have it through "deals"), then you don't understand what the NSA is tasked to do. 

    As for the Echo only turning on when it's summoned, can you prove this? Are their any service words it uses other than having to start with Alexa? Can it be hacked, just like everything else. Where does the data go, how much of the conversations are saved by Amazon and is any of it encrypted? Does Amazon scan the conversations (like Google does on everything--no, I don't have proof of this) and use it for targeted marketing? These are all serious questions that need to be investigated and not some ramblings from another conspiracy theorist but from someone who spent their entire work life dealing with limiting access by others to information I was working on.
    Of course they will go afte this stuff. Like they go after your smartphone and computer, before that your phone, before that your desk drawer. 

    Whats new or different about this? The only relevant question is how we regulate, legislate, and push back. The rest is, as Soli says, tinfoil hat crap. 
  • Reply 64 of 155
    Holy shįî. I hope someone from the company is paying attention to this stunning conversation. 

    I think we may may be in the midst of a Trumpster-level mindshift in the Apple faithful. I am sensing a serious sentiment shift. 
    brian green
  • Reply 65 of 155
    SoliSoli Posts: 7,098member
    rob53 said:
    Soli said:
    This is especially true for the Google and Amazon offerings. Having those things listening all the time is just not on. If you care about your personal security then just don't use these things. Do you really want a feed of your home conversations to the NSA, GCHQ and worse, the FSB? And one that you have to pay for out of your own money?
    Just go read/watch 1984 and see what Orwell wrote in 1948 and how close these things are to 'Big Brother'.

    Sorry, no, just no.
    Can you shut the fuck up with this ridiculous, myopic conspiracy theory. You have fucking microphones around you every day of your life, but because there's a device listening for the keyword "Alexa" you've jumped to the erroneous conclusion that it's not just listening for the keyword "Alexa" but also recording everything you're saying; yet you've completely ignored the glaring fact that your smartphone, tablet, PC, and many other devices have microphones and cameras built into them and you have no fucking idea if they're secretly recording what you're doing at any given time. And I bet you install 3rd-party apps on your devices without making sure that you've read and understood every line of the code to make sure that they aren't subverting the terms of use and gathering data about your usage patterns in ways you're not even aware. I fucking hate you tinfoil-hat idiots that can't see the forest for the trees.
    Soli, I think you need to get your head out of the sand. http://www.cbsnews.com/news/amazon-echo-data-evidence-in-murder-case/ already shows the police force is going after any kind of information they can.
    What's your point? That because the cops are clueless about technology and depress for a lead that it's proof that the Echo is always recording everything you say? Now that's a head in a sand assumption.

    Unless the victim also had the name Alexa and the murder oddly screamed out, "Alexa, my name is James Bates and I'm going to strangle you" or unless Bates had previous put on his shopping list, "Alexa, order me piano wire, a shovel, and a bag of lye," there would be nothing on there to incriminate the accused.
  • Reply 66 of 155
    SoliSoli Posts: 7,098member

    rob53 said:
    As for the Echo only turning on when it's summoned, can you prove this?
    Of course. You can do the same if you have any number of devices. I assume you have an iPhone that uses "Hey, Siri."

    Are their any service words it uses other than having to start with Alexa?
    Yes. You get to choose from 3 different words, but only one word works unless you change it in Settings. Early on they stated—at least that's how I read it—that you'd be able to program any keyword to wake the device, but I don't think that happened, or if it did it was short lived.
     

    Can it be hacked, just like everything else. Where does the data go, how much of the conversations are saved by Amazon and is any of it encrypted? Does Amazon scan the conversations (like Google does on everything--no, I don't have proof of this) and use it for targeted marketing? These are all serious questions that need to be investigated and not some ramblings from another conspiracy theorist but from someone who spent their entire work life dealing with limiting access by others to information I was working on.

    1) Of course it's possible to be hacked. Never assume something is unhackable. I made that point already about you not knowing what your cameras and microphones are recording, so it's foolish to be frightened because a device is designed to listen to a keyword it would somehow translate to it always recording everything you're saying.

    2) Just like with Siri, the data is parsed on their servers. Unlike with Siri you can see every request you've made and then report on its accuracy, which is a great thing to help better the system quickly.

    3) If these questions are so "serious" then why haven't you brought this up about Siri or about all the cameras and microphones in your home and on your person and nearly everywhere you go that could be hacked. And not just audio and video of your environment, but capturing data from your computers and routers, which we've recently seen is a real issue.


    You people really need to stop with this erroneous notion that "always listening for a keyword" means it's always recording, and that without that feature it's not possible that a device can be both listening in real time and recording.


    tl;dr: All your fears targeted only at Alexa and not technology in general are completely unfounded.
    singularitygatorguy
  • Reply 67 of 155
    hmurchisonhmurchison Posts: 12,116member
    As an owner of both Echo and Google Home I'd say Amazon will be overtaken by Google within 2 years.
    Amazon are in it for the long game. They want to be the retailer that most people turn to. Alexa is just a stepping stone towards that.
    They want to be the only retailer of substence left in the world. Ask yourself what they don't sell (yet).

    Amazon isn't much of a factor.  Over the holidays I did some seasonal work for a big box retailer and the GM told me Amazon price match doesn't affect them all.  My experience bore that statement out.  People by and large want to talk to a human about their needs.  Amazon cannot provide that. 
    andrewj5790
  • Reply 68 of 155
    hmurchisonhmurchison Posts: 12,116member
    asdasd said:
    Siri, home kit and Apple TV are serious ball drops. 

    I'm getting a new TV. But I want it wall mounted and primarily I use the internet for TV these days.  Without a lot of wiring added this excludes the Apple TV and so I will get a smart TV probably running Android. 

    That said I think home automation is a fad. It was wearables a few years ago right 
    No ..it's not. Wearables never delivered because marketing people told us there would be these amazing sensors to provide our quantified life and essentially the product delivered was a fancy pedometer.  They're getting there but they haven't matched the hype. 

    What's driving Home Auto is security (doorbell and security cams) lighting and streaming (cord cutting).  It's certainly not a fad. 
    ration al
  • Reply 69 of 155
    hmurchisonhmurchison Posts: 12,116member
    gatorguy said:
    Regardless of how the technologies affect the bottom lines of each company, Apple does have catching up to do with the quality of the Siri experience compared to both Google and Amazon. Siri feels very restrictive compared to competitors, requiring more precise phrasing to get an adequate answer. The other two feel more freeform and conversational, particularly Google Now.

    One reason behind this is that Google/Amazon are not afraid to use customer data to bolster AI learning, which will potentially allow them to stay ahead of Apple. Apple has painted themselves into a corner a bit by being so loud and proud about customer privacy. While their stance on privacy is obviously highly respectable, the reality is that AI software needs real world input to improve and Google/Amazon (particularly Google) are in a position that may offer exponential rather than incremental improvements.

    I'd also like to point out this bad assumption in your article:
    "In contrast, moving from iOS devices and the rest of Apple's platform to new hardware running a different ecosystem, just to access another voice assistant, is a much more difficult transition for users to make."

    At least in the case of Alexa, nothing is further from the truth. I was given an Echo Dot as an unexpected Xmas present and found it delightfully easy to use. It has quickly replaced "Hey Siri" as my go-to for voice control of lights and common questions like weather. The fight here might not be about which technology makes the most money, but which voice service gets the most mind share first, becoming the "Google" or "Kleenex" of voice assistance.
    Let us know when you buy an amazon phone and computer (or a droid and a pc), just to better utilize Alexa. That's what dan meant by moving away from apple's ecosystem. We have an Alexa and her recognition of my commands is about 15% better than Siri, meaning we have to try twice or more times to accomplish something multiple times a week, but just slightly less than with Siri, and that's with amazon having a big cylinder with many mics at its disposal.
    I don't see a phone/computer switch happening anytime soon
    Amazon is getting a lot more traction for it's AI than some here realize. It's not just for home. Alexa will come preinstalled on some Huawei smartphones and is also being integrated with some vehicles, with Ford announcing it this week.

    People already have a better solution to Alexa on their phones.  It's called Google Now.   

    I don't know what you guys aren't getting.   Google has the best knowledgebase and dataset by far.  Apple is ahead of Amazon.   Amazon had to use Bing for their search. 

    Amazon doesn't have an answer for multi-room audio - Google does. 
    Amazon just announced integration into crappy 3rd TV 

    Apple is still well positioned.   HomeKit is still substantial.   They have global coverage for Siri in 21 languages (Echo doesn't even cover 5 languages) . DED is spot on here Apple delivers globally and sells many more units. 


    Let's talk about Amazon Prime.   I pay $99 a year for free 2-Day shipping that was great but now with multiple retailers I can ship to the store for free.  I'll probably keep Prime for another year but I don't even know if I need it anymore. 

    I stand by my statement.  In 3 years the AI and Voice will be owned by Google and Apple.   Just like the Mobile sector is.  There's just no room for Amazon...they will become Blackberry. 

    andrewj5790
  • Reply 70 of 155
    jungmarkjungmark Posts: 6,536member
    I was praying to the God in Hades that this was a DED article. Now I can sit down and have an enjoyable time reading it.
    Because it will tell you what you want to hear? Even Ben Bajarin, normally very bullish on Apple was worried about the lack of Apple love at CES. Outside of iPhone cases/chargers the only real Apple presence was companies providing solutions for the ports Apple removed on the new Macs. Siri and HomeKit aren't dominating anything.
    Remember when 3D tvs dominated CES? Now we all have 'em. 
    andrewj5790
  • Reply 71 of 155
    sirlance99sirlance99 Posts: 1,077member
    Holy shįî. I hope someone from the company is paying attention to this stunning conversation. 

    I think we may may be in the midst of a Trumpster-level mindshift in the Apple faithful. I am sensing a serious sentiment shift. 
    Whats so stunning about it when most of its true. Siri is lacking in a big way compared to the others. I never use Siri on my iPhone because she never gets anything right. My Google Home does all the while controlling my Smart home. My favorite is waking up in the day and asking what my day is like and it goes through everything I have. 
  • Reply 72 of 155
    SoliSoli Posts: 7,098member
    jungmark said:
    I was praying to the God in Hades that this was a DED article. Now I can sit down and have an enjoyable time reading it.
    Because it will tell you what you want to hear? Even Ben Bajarin, normally very bullish on Apple was worried about the lack of Apple love at CES. Outside of iPhone cases/chargers the only real Apple presence was companies providing solutions for the ports Apple removed on the new Macs. Siri and HomeKit aren't dominating anything.
    Remember when 3D tvs dominated CES? Now we all have 'em. 
    LOL They took away the Funny button.

    And remember when the rumours about Apple releasing an iTablet dominated the tech news in 2009 so by CES 2010 it was filled with $1000+ tablets all trying to beat Apple to the punch? Remember Balmer on stage holding and HP(?) windows-based tablet showing a copy of a Twilight book cover on it which had an Apple in the pic?
  • Reply 73 of 155
    Soli said:
    I'm curious what people actually ask Alexa to do. I just don't see the benefit or why I'd want one (or a bunch, actually) in my home.

    What would be the Top 10 questions/commands you give Alexa that makes it worthwhile?
    Top 10? I'm not sure I could tell you an accurate list.. Same for Siri, although my most common non-query to Siri is probably telling it to fuck off after it repeatedly fails on simple commands.

    Some of the things I do is create multiple timers for cooking. I also ask it to music or news from any variety of sources, including my personal library. The weather forecast is another one. A nice feature with having an Echo is that you can practically mumble this from across the room while passing through the room right after waking up and it'll be spot on. Another nice feature of the Echo is being able to say "Alexa…" while music is playing fairly loudly and it'll be able to pause the music to listen to the rest of your command. If it's up too loud you may have to yell "Alexa." Speaking of volume, I like the 1 through 10 volume setting over Siri's percentage option, which I only learned about in the last week. The aforementioned alarms and asking for the time with remarkable ease is one. I can't come close to that with "Hey, Siri…" even though on paper it might look like the same thing. Flash briefings of news are nice while you're in the kitchen cooking, which you can personalize. Having stuff added to a to-do list, shopping list, and to your Amazon cart is convenient. I only use the latter for Echo as I still use Notes in my iPhone and Mac with manual entries. Trivia is great with Echo during a dinner conversation. And if you don't have a song in your library, it will look to play it for you from its collection, and if not it will at least play a sample from its Amazon page. Kind of fun to be talking about a movie and then play clips from the soundtrack from the Amazon website. If you want to play full songs you can just ask it to play a genre. If you have some other service added it will try that, otherwise it will try other options. Unlike with the Apple TV's TV app and with Amazon's Prime Video which lumps paid and free content together without a hierarchy, Alexa's algorithm looks to satisfy your requests with your personalized settings and services, and then works to other options if those don't pan out.

    It's also now great for smart home integration, checking the status of a flight before you leave, ordering an Uber/Lyft, and my roommate used it to find her keys and iPhone as she was prone to misplacing the moment she put them down. There are simply too many features to list and I'm forgetting a million things I use it for without thinking twice. Your request is like asking me the top 10 things I talk about with someone I've lived with for 2 years. I'm not saying your question is unreasonable since we're talking about technology, but from my end that's what the question feels like since it does so much.


    Sorry, but not one thing you listed is anything I'd ever see myself using. There's technology that actually improves your life and technology that's "cool". To me this seems more like the latter.
  • Reply 74 of 155
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 18,481member
    Holy shįî. I hope someone from the company is paying attention to this stunning conversation. 

    I think we may may be in the midst of a Trumpster-level mindshift in the Apple faithful. I am sensing a serious sentiment shift. 
    Whats so stunning about it when most of its true. Siri is lacking in a big way compared to the others. I never use Siri on my iPhone because she never gets anything right. My Google Home does all the while controlling my Smart home. My favorite is waking up in the day and asking what my day is like and it goes through everything I have. 
    And it's expanding with more manufacturers jumping on board. The Nvidia Spot is their version of Google Home, integrating the new Google Assistant. Better yet it will work with both last years Shield TV as well as the new one. 
  • Reply 75 of 155
    irelandireland Posts: 17,095member
    Siri has been very buggy for me lately. Takes too long to initiate on iOS 10 and has a few major bugs on macOS. Literally cuts me off mid-sentence and tells me she does not understand what that means. I don't understand sentences that are chopping off 2 seconds into them either. And I have't even paused my speech. This is with a service that launched almost 7 years ago. I wish Apple would get Siri-ous.
    edited January 2017 brian greenunbeliever2
  • Reply 76 of 155
    jungmarkjungmark Posts: 6,536member
    k2kw said:
    LeeinAZ said:

    While I use Apple Music, I use a Sonos system to play the music, I use Fire TV instead of Apple TV for media and I use Waze rather than Apple Maps for navigation. As I have a car that has Android Auto as well as CarPlay I have started moving my SIM card over to a Galaxy S7 Edge for longer car trips to use Android Auto as I find, other than messaging, which is something I kind of avoid while driving anyway, CarPlay is useless and more often than not responds with 'I am sorry, I can't search the internet while you are driving' which makes the CarPlay experience useless and frustrating. I kind of thought that being able to use voice to do things like find a gas station or see if a store is open was kind of the idea.



    Because of the sorry state of SIRI and APPLE MAPS I've stayed a way from CarPlay. Thanks for letting me know its not worth it.

    And because of SIR and MAPS there is no way in hell that I would be interested in an Apple car.   Maybe Car Play (or an Apple enhanced User Experience) might be good if Apple started providing "A" series chip call it the "C" series for traditional Auto makers.  Apple has proven that they can design small powerful specialized chips.   

    Years after the Scott Forstall was pushed out for problems in iMaps I can't believe that Cue hasn't been either fired, Reassigned, or had these Responsibilities moved to a new executive.   The executive level at Apple seems more like a "boys tree house club" - its just the friends who get along with Cook and Ive.     They have only added one product
    (the watch) since Jobs died. and yet it seems like product development has slowed down all the last few years with updates taking years to iPads and computers.    Because of this Cook should be replaced.



    Blah blah blah rant. I remember when Jobs added products every day of the year. 

    Shit, he didn't. I guess you don't consider the AirPods a product. If development was so easy, everyone would be releasing new products daily. 

    Maps works for me. 
    ericthehalfbeeSoliration al
  • Reply 77 of 155
    SoliSoli Posts: 7,098member
    Soli said:
    I'm curious what people actually ask Alexa to do. I just don't see the benefit or why I'd want one (or a bunch, actually) in my home.

    What would be the Top 10 questions/commands you give Alexa that makes it worthwhile?
    Top 10? I'm not sure I could tell you an accurate list.. Same for Siri, although my most common non-query to Siri is probably telling it to fuck off after it repeatedly fails on simple commands.

    Some of the things I do is create multiple timers for cooking. I also ask it to music or news from any variety of sources, including my personal library. The weather forecast is another one. A nice feature with having an Echo is that you can practically mumble this from across the room while passing through the room right after waking up and it'll be spot on. Another nice feature of the Echo is being able to say "Alexa…" while music is playing fairly loudly and it'll be able to pause the music to listen to the rest of your command. If it's up too loud you may have to yell "Alexa." Speaking of volume, I like the 1 through 10 volume setting over Siri's percentage option, which I only learned about in the last week. The aforementioned alarms and asking for the time with remarkable ease is one. I can't come close to that with "Hey, Siri…" even though on paper it might look like the same thing. Flash briefings of news are nice while you're in the kitchen cooking, which you can personalize. Having stuff added to a to-do list, shopping list, and to your Amazon cart is convenient. I only use the latter for Echo as I still use Notes in my iPhone and Mac with manual entries. Trivia is great with Echo during a dinner conversation. And if you don't have a song in your library, it will look to play it for you from its collection, and if not it will at least play a sample from its Amazon page. Kind of fun to be talking about a movie and then play clips from the soundtrack from the Amazon website. If you want to play full songs you can just ask it to play a genre. If you have some other service added it will try that, otherwise it will try other options. Unlike with the Apple TV's TV app and with Amazon's Prime Video which lumps paid and free content together without a hierarchy, Alexa's algorithm looks to satisfy your requests with your personalized settings and services, and then works to other options if those don't pan out.

    It's also now great for smart home integration, checking the status of a flight before you leave, ordering an Uber/Lyft, and my roommate used it to find her keys and iPhone as she was prone to misplacing the moment she put them down. There are simply too many features to list and I'm forgetting a million things I use it for without thinking twice. Your request is like asking me the top 10 things I talk about with someone I've lived with for 2 years. I'm not saying your question is unreasonable since we're talking about technology, but from my end that's what the question feels like since it does so much.


    Sorry, but not one thing you listed is anything I'd ever see myself using. There's technology that actually improves your life and technology that's "cool". To me this seems more like the latter.
    1) That's perfectly fine if you have no use for a voice controlled system in your home, but I guess that means you don't cook at home so you have no need for timers, an eidetic memory so you have no need for converting measurements, and so great at math that you'd have no need to figure out portions that aren't part of a recipe all while your hands are too dirty to use your iPhone or another device.

    2) I find it hard to believe that you looked through all 10,000 Skills and saw not a single thing that could be useful to you, but let's assume that you did look through every possible feature that the Alexa service offers and found none that suits your needs; what does that have to do with the technology improving the lives of others? Just because it's not for you doesn't mean you should write it off as being beneficial to others. The iPad is not the ideal computing device for my needs, but I'd never say that the iPad is a pointless gadget that can't possibly "improve your life."
    edited January 2017 gatorguyanantksundarambrian green
  • Reply 78 of 155
    knowitallknowitall Posts: 1,007member
    It's easy to criticize such complex and difficult technique as AI and voice recognition but Siri has some worrisome characteristics. One is that it can easily get off track and for example insists on calling someone (completely out of context and certainly not the one you would want to call at all), it's even a major joke in a recent movie (and spot on, because it actually works like that in real life); another one is that it's implementation is haphazard and for example asking for directions ends up with an awful sounding completely different voice and a completely different service without comparable voice interface (maps).
  • Reply 79 of 155
    calicali Posts: 3,495member
    There's no excuse. Siri should be at least 5 years ahead of the copycats 
    hucom2000brian greenunbeliever2
  • Reply 80 of 155
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 18,481member
    mike54 said:
    One thing that Amazon is far behind is that all this Echo stuff is US centric only. If you live in the US bubble it maybe good, but there's a whole world out here and Amazon means alot less than it does for you.
    It's already announced as on the way to the UK and Germany. I think it's in "invite-only" beta now. 
    https://techcrunch.com/2016/09/14/amazons-alexa-powered-echo-and-echo-dot-coming-to-uk-and-germany/

    EDIT: I'm wrong. It's for sale in the UK. Didn't check Germany. 
    https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias=aps&field-keywords=echo
    edited January 2017
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