Growth of Apple's Siri hampered by privacy & departure of key staff - report

Posted:
in iPhone edited June 2017
Apple's Siri is failing to keep up with rival assistants from Amazon and Google not just because of fences created by privacy, but because of related staff departures, according to several former members of the Siri team.




Apple's privacy policy is making it hard to evolve and personalize Siri, the ex-Apple sources told the Wall Street Journal. Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant both take advantage of user data stored in the cloud, improving their adaptiveness.

It's frustration with this gap -- including slow support for third-party apps -- that has reportedly led to people leaving the Siri team, some of them for competitors. Perhaps the best known losses are Adam Cheyer and Dag Kittlaus, who helped create the independent version of Siri that Apple bought and integrated into iOS. After later leaving Apple the pair founded Viv, which was in turn bought by Samsung and used as the basis for Bixby, an assistant found on the Galaxy S8 smartphone.

The Siri team is said to have first realized it was losing ground at a 2014 Amazon event showcasing the original Echo speaker. The device was not only able to play music, run Web searches, and order products from Amazon, but easily separate voices from background noise, and recognize people at a distance. Some of these features were clearly missing from Siri.

"People at Apple's anxiety level went up a notch," one ex-Siri team member said.

Apple did announce some Siri upgrades at this week's Worldwide Developers Conference in San Jose, such as live translations, contextual query comprehension, and user data sync across all of a person's Apple devices. Stealing the spotlight was the HomePod, a $349 smartspeaker with Siri built in, shipping in December. The product will offer high-end audio, and double as a HomeKit hub.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 72
    irelandireland Posts: 17,671member
    Apple's privacy policy is making hard to evolve and personalize Siri, the ex-Apple sources told the Wall Street Journal.
    Good because privacy is the number 1 important issue of our times. Or at the very least one of the top five issues going. I wouldn't necessarily want to, but I could get by without a digital assistant. I could even get by, if I had to, without a phone, period. But I couldn't relax and feel myself without privacy. Once you have no privacy, you have no identity IMO. It is also certainly a key reason I choose Apple products over competitors. In terms of voice assistants in technology, early days doesn't even begin to get to the heart of where we are at this point. And tbh, even though Path Inc's social network didn't take off, long term I see the potential for a competitor to Facebook coming along and succeeding with privacy being its key differentiator. It may not happen next year, but it wouldn't surprise me if it happens at some point. If Duck Duck had a search engine anywhere near as good as Google's I'd so never use Google again.
    edited June 2017 YvLyrobjnsockrolidjSnivelymattinozkaitain4andrewj5790radarthekatMuntzmike54
  • Reply 2 of 72
    NotsofastNotsofast Posts: 434member
    So much of the superiority of Google's assistant is just hype.  I wish more folks, especially bloggers posting articles like this on sites like AI would research it more.  Assistants need to be able to do much more than Internet searches.   Indeed it's really how well can they perform a variety of tasks.  Alexa is well behind Siri and Google, who are very close, with Siri able to do some things that Google can't and vice versa, but with Google, you have to give up all privacy.

    Here's a recent thorough test of the big three against each other with a wide variety of tasks.  

    http://www.businessinsider.com/siri-vs-google-assistant-cortana-alexa-2016-11/#so-what-did-we-learn-here-46

    To whet your appetite,  here's from the author's summary of the face offI know,

     "I know — there are a lot of embarrassing moments for Google up there. If I were to simply count each "winner" above, 
    Siri would be right there with it. Things are closer than the recent Google hype machine would suggest."
    edited June 2017 caliericthehalfbeejony0hmurchisonradarthekatMuntzgilly33Rayz2016Bluntargonaut
  • Reply 3 of 72
    mobiusmobius Posts: 378member
    "People at Apple's anxiety level went up a notch," one ex-Siri team member said.
    No wonder Siri is failing; the Siri team can't even make grammatical sense themselves!
    stevenozRayz2016tokyojimusteveauharry wild
  • Reply 4 of 72
    boltsfan17boltsfan17 Posts: 2,184member
    I have an Echo and I think its doesn't do that great of a job at separating background noise. Every day, it picks up sound from my TV and always says it doesn't understand what I'm saying. It actually gets quite annoying. 
    irelandMuntzHBW1argonautjahbladelongpathbb-15
  • Reply 5 of 72
    Eh, voice-activated assistants are of no interest to me, until I can get a satisfactory result from the following query: "Hey (Siri/Google/Alexa), bring me my slippers."
    mike54gilly33
  • Reply 6 of 72
    One of the main reasons I'm an Apple customer is the fact that Apple shows concern for privacy issues, so I will not fault Siri for issues that may be compounded by privacy concerns. With that said, I have a simple test for Siri and it failed the last time I tested it (and since this involves directions to an Apple Store, it shouldn't fail).

    I live near an Apple Store (now closed for remodeling), but it's a smaller store and they don't always have a good selection of product. To test Siri, I ask for directions to another SPECIFIC Apple Store (using the official name as shown on their website) and instead Siri responds with "There is a closer Apple Store, would you like directions to that store" (that's not a direct quote, but something similar and, of course, I say No and that's the end of it). That's insane... When asking for directions to a specific store, Siri should NOT respond in that manner (If I asked for the nearest Apple Store, yes,  but not when I'm asking for directions to a store that has the product that my nearest store doesn't have).

    Siri is great for setting timers from my watch, which is about the only thing I use Siri for these days...
    edited June 2017 longpath
  • Reply 7 of 72
    ...I would be far more interested in a HomePod without Siri or iCloud connectivity... The security concerns seem entirely valid, if not now, with a fundamental change in policy... Horn drivers are a favourite and for a compact / bookshelf I keenly await an audition of the HomePod...
    edited June 2017
  • Reply 8 of 72
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 21,117member
    Notsofast said:
    So much of the superiority of Google's assistant is just hype.  I wish more folks, especially bloggers posting articles like this on sites like AI would research it more.  Assistants need to be able to do much more than Internet searches.   Indeed it's really how well can they perform a variety of tasks.  Alexa is well behind Siri and Google, who are very close, with Siri able to do some things that Google can't and vice versa, but with Google, you have to give up all privacy.

    Here's a recent thorough test of the big three against each other with a wide variety of tasks.  

    http:/ http://www.businessinsider.com/siri-vs-google-assistant-cortana-alexa-2016-11/#so-what-did-we-learn-here-46


    To whet your appetite,  here's from the author's summary of the face offI know,


     "I know — there are a lot of embarrassing moments for Google up there. If I were to simply count each "winner" above, Siri would be right there with it. Things are closer than the recent Google hype machine would suggest."
    And an even more recent and more thorough test. As I recall it BI isn't really a trusted source here among AI members:
    https://seekingalpha.com/article/4078591-google-assistant-smarter-siri-cortana-alexa

    robjnlongpath
  • Reply 9 of 72
    slurpyslurpy Posts: 5,179member
    Sorry, I don't believe or trust a word from "ex-employees", especially when they're unnamed. Also, even if any of this was true, if they had a shred of class they wouldn't shit talk their former employer or divulge info. This kind of thing is usually motivated by resentment. 
    calisockrolidmacplusplusradarthekatMacsplosionpscooter63Rayz2016Bluntjahblademike1
  • Reply 10 of 72
    calicali Posts: 3,495member
    Where the f*** is Apple's VocalIQ tech?

    Apple has intelligent voice tech that's years ahead of the copycats and Apple isn't using it. I was expecting a big reveal at WWDC but we only got the new Siri voice.

    http://www.businessinsider.com/how-apples-vocaliq-ai-works-2016-5
    sockrolidNY1822
  • Reply 11 of 72
    calicali Posts: 3,495member
    ireland said:
    Apple's privacy policy is making hard to evolve and personalize Siri, the ex-Apple sources told the Wall Street Journal.
    Good because privacy is the number 1 important issue of our times. Or at the very least one of the top five issues going. I wouldn't necessarily want to, but I could get by without a digital assistant. I could even get by, if I had to, without a phone, period. But I couldn't relax and feel myself without privacy. Once you have no privacy, you have no identity IMO. It is also certainly a key reason I choose Apple products over competitors. In terms of voice assistants in technology, early days doesn't even begin to get to the heart of where we are at this point. And tbh, even though Path Inc's social network didn't take off, long term I see the potential for a competitor to Facebook coming along and succeeding with privacy being its key differentiator. It may not happen next year, but it wouldn't surprise me if it happens at some point. If Duck Duck had a search engine anywhere near as good as Google's I'd so never use Google again.
    The problem is, the public doesn't know this.

    Apple isn't boasting about privacy much either(which is why the new ad about privacy surprised me). I had an iKnockoff user tell me TouchID sends your fingerprint over the air. I told him about the secure enclave and the moron just laughed. Idiots aren't educated on these matters either. 
    edited June 2017 sockrolidjahbladebb-15
  • Reply 12 of 72
    gerardgerard Posts: 48member
    I don't understand the privacy issue concern. Just teach Siri how to find answers to questions people ask; even if Siri has to look it up on the internet before it offers an answer (Obviously nothing dealing with life and death to avoid liability). Just as an example: what's wrong with hey Siri what is snow boarding? Snow boarding is a winter based sport practiced on mountains; for more detailed info you check out these websites. I hate when I do use Siri and it just lists websites; I can search the web myself if I wanted to go that route. 
    edited June 2017
  • Reply 13 of 72
    slurpy said:
    Sorry, I don't believe or trust a word from "ex-employees", especially when they're unnamed. Also, even if any of this was true, if they had a shred of class they wouldn't shit talk their former employer or divulge info. This kind of thing is usually motivated by resentment. 

    This. And the article also ignores people Apple has recently hired. Like Russ Salakhutdinov from Carnegie Mellon (who made an interesting comment inviting other AI researchers to join his team, with a link to Apple job postings). Apple also recently acquired Perceptio, Turi and Tuplejump, and apparently have significantly expanded the offices in Seattle where Turi is based.

    Clearly Apple is up to something, and we won't know what it is until they announce it.
    jony0robin hubersockrolidroundaboutnowradarthekatjahbladelongpath
  • Reply 14 of 72
    lorin schultzlorin schultz Posts: 2,744member
    I initially reacted to the translation feature with excitement, but that has been tempered after some reflection. If Siri misunderstands what I say, the translation could get me into trouble without me knowing why!
    mike54pscooter63
  • Reply 15 of 72
    mknelsonmknelson Posts: 366member
    I just hope the HomePod has good non-voice controls (app on iOS device) and can have multiple "Hey Siri" profiles.

    The adults in the house have full control, kids - you can control music and these select homekit items, guests, you can turn on the lights in the bathroom.
    mike54zimmermannlongpath
  • Reply 16 of 72
    spice-boyspice-boy Posts: 978member
    Unless I am unable to use my hands for a mouse, touchpad or trackpad I think barking questions at a device is still a nerd fantasy. My uses for Siri are mostly to make phone calls but I must be very exact if I have more than one "Tom" in my address book. She is really bad somewhat understandably with names of businesses which have single letter in its name like "Cafe Y". Another complaint I have is when asking for a place to get coffee Siri always defaults to chains and never independent cafe's. The last place I want coffee from is a damn Starbucks. 
    ireland
  • Reply 17 of 72
    securtissecurtis Posts: 86member
    It still amazes me how Apple and its customers are vehemently opposed to sharing any metadata with 3rd parties in the spirit of privacy, but then willingly those same customers will put a Google/Amazon listening device in their home....No surprise that Google is stretching its lead with personal assistants; as long as Apple clings to its privacy shtick they are only going to be left further behind. 
  • Reply 18 of 72
    robin huberrobin huber Posts: 3,288member
    I, too, got the distinct impression that a massively improved Siri is being rolled out with HomePod in the fall. 
    sockrolidhmurchisonlongpathpalomine
  • Reply 19 of 72
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 21,117member
    I, too, got the distinct impression that a massively improved Siri is being rolled out with HomePod in the fall winter. 
    Winter is coming...
    hmurchisonlongpathkruegdudesingularity
  • Reply 20 of 72
    sockrolidsockrolid Posts: 2,788member
    ireland said:
    Apple's privacy policy is making hard to evolve and personalize Siri, the ex-Apple sources told the Wall Street Journal.
    Good because privacy is the number 1 important issue of our times. Or at the very least one of the top five issues going. I wouldn't necessarily want to, but I could get by without a digital assistant. I could even get by, if I had to, without a phone, period. But I couldn't relax and feel myself without privacy. Once you have no privacy, you have no identity IMO. It is also certainly a key reason I choose Apple products over competitors. In terms of voice assistants in technology, early days doesn't even begin to get to the heart of where we are at this point. And tbh, even though Path Inc's social network didn't take off, long term I see the potential for a competitor to Facebook coming along and succeeding with privacy being its key differentiator. It may not happen next year, but it wouldn't surprise me if it happens at some point. If Duck Duck had a search engine anywhere near as good as Google's I'd so never use Google again.

    Agree completely.  I actively avoid anything Google.  Not necessarily because of "privacy" per se.
    It's because Google makes 97+% of their revenue by selling advertisements.
    And the more info they can dig out of you, the more focused their ads can be.

    And guess what.  
    I absolutely f*****g hate ads.
    radarthekatMacsplosiontallest skilpscooter63mike1
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