Tagged With siri

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Siri, Cortana and Alexa are robotic personal assistants, but they are also women. They live in your pockets, their skinny smart phone bodies executing your every command. They are intimate with you. But they are also, as Microsoft VP Joe Belfiore said at the Windows 10 keynote last week, "a member of your family."

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Yesterday, Amazon announced Echo, a Bluetooth speaker slash voice-controlled personal assistant, an omnipresent Siri that sits in your living room and answers whatever questions you might throw at it. So, clearly, Amazon thinks that voice control is cool enough to warrant a standalone product. I'm just wondering who actually uses the damn thing.

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Using names like Siri, Cortana, and Google Now, advanced algorithms and technologies that would have baffled engineers and scientists half a century ago now rest in the palm of our hands. Talking with technology is the future of computing — mainly because that's the way we're built to communicate.

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For most of us, Siri or Google Now (or Cortana, if you swing that way) is a minor help at best, a first-world solution to the first-world problem of not being able to text and drive. But as Judith Newman illustrates today in a heartfelt and heart-warming piece in the New York Times, Apple's digital assistant has become a lifeline for her autistic son.

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If you really want to be able to emulate the characters in Apple's promotional videos, then you need to be able to tell Siri to "call mum" and "email dad." Thanks to the custom label field built into iCloud contacts, you can assign any kind of relationship to people you know. Tell Siri about your best friend, your boss, and your arch-enemy and you can control the virtual assistant more easily with your voice.

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It's a day ending in "y", which means Microsoft is looking to loosen Apple's stranglehold on the smartphone market again. This time it's hammering Siri for not being as awesome as Redmond's new voice assistant, Cortana. But in its haste to crow about how drop-dead awesome it is, Microsoft has forgotten one very important piece of information.

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Apple's virtual helper might soon appear in additional types of hardware from the tech giant, with snippets of code found within the iOS 7.1 SDK suggesting that a version of Siri for Apple TV may be in the works.

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It's all well and good being able to call upon your own pocketable Siri butler, but I don't remember Bruce Wayne's buddy Alfred relying on a Wi-Fi or mobile data connection before he could stitch up his crime-fighting boss. Apple's aware of the limitations that a mandatory web connection brings to Siri functionality, and it seems to be looking to rectify it with a new purchase.

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Microsoft hosted its BUILD conference overnight, where we saw updates to Windows 8.1 that will make it more usable, as well as the debut of Cortana: Microsoft's virtual voice assistant. Don't get too excited though, Australia. You'll be waiting at least until next year to get your hands on Microsoft's "Siri-killer".