Siri misidentifies poison oak in Apple print ad

Even the most curmudgeonly of Apple-haters will surely admit – even if only to themselves – that Siri is a remarkable piece of software. Android fans will point to Iris and S-Voice as proof that Google’s mobile OS can perform the same tricks, while Windows Phone aficionados will no doubt point to the fact that Microsoft mobiles have handled voice interaction for years. These are both true, but few objective minds would claim that Siri lags behind either one.

Of course, Siri is far from perfect. For all of the high praise that it gets, you’ll still hear occasional tales of woe from users left waiting indefinitely for results, frustrated by voice recognition issues or just annoyed by an experience that fails to match the almost magical immediacy and accuracy of Siri’s performance in Apple’s ads.

But in a rather rare cock-up, one of Apple’s ads has made Siri look like a bit of a fool. Apple ran a full-page advertisement for the iPhone 4S on the back cover of The Economist earlier this month, featuring a user asking Siri, “What does poison oak look like?”

A simple enough enquiry, and the ad above does a neat job of conveying the simplicity of asking a question in conversational language, and getting an easy-to-understand and genuinely useful response. Unfortunately, the response wasn’t quite as useful as it should have been.

As AdWeek reports, Lena Struwe, botanist and director of Rutgers University’s Chrysler Herbarium, encountered the ad while reading the journal, and confirmed with her colleagues that the image that Siri has served up in the ad is of poison ivy not poison oak.

In an odd twist, if you actually ask Siri to identify poison oak on your device, you’ll get a completely different image, which does in fact identify the evil shrub correctly.

Source: AdWeek | Image: Vilseskogen, Flickr

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30 Comments

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And this is news... how? It's an advertisement, designed for marketing. The goal is to sell, not to keep it accurate.

WizardCM said,
And this is news... how? It's an advertisement, designed for marketing. The goal is to sell, not to keep it accurate.

Accuracy is kind of important to selling this product.

Martin5000 said,

Accuracy is kind of important to selling this product.

And you're saying you know what poison oak looks like? Majority of people probably don't, and that majority is the intended audience.

Apparently people don't just hate people, they hate computerized voices too. The things they will do to feel better than Siri. Just take a crash course in artificial intelligence. It's not that simple.

"Even the most curmudgeonly of Apple-haters will surely admit - even if only to themselves - that Siri is a remarkable piece of software."

I am not an Apple hater but i consider Siri a gimmick.

If you look up Poison Oak on Wikipedia there is no picture.
Looking up Poison Ivy you find the picture they used.
Just sloppy work.

Guess the ad guys prefer Samsung for their personal units...couldn't test Siri themselves.

mizkitty said,
If you look up Poison Oak on Wikipedia there is no picture.
Looking up Poison Ivy you find the picture they used.
Just sloppy work.

Guess the ad guys prefer Samsung for their personal units...couldn't test Siri themselves.

Maybe they're just lazy - or Siri can't parse links in an article (done't Apple have a 'patent' on links though?)

In the Wikipedia article it links to two different possible references. Toxicodendron pubescens is the poison oak in North America.

Of course if you google poison oak, there's a picture right there. Siri is just lazy and dumb.

azz0r_wugg said,
I guarantee you that a designer would have said "oh but the picture of poison ivy pops better - no one will notice"

Or didn't realize that they were different things.

azz0r_wugg said,
I guarantee you that a designer would have said "oh but the picture of poison ivy pops better - no one will notice"

Then they should have changed the text to "poison ivy".

Even the most curmudgeonly of Apple-haters will surely admit - even if only to themselves - that Siri is a remarkable piece of software.

Nope, its a gimmick thats all

Android fans will point to Iris and S-Voice as proof that Google's mobile OS can perform the same tricks,

Actually I would point at android and say it had voice functions already but VERY limited, Siri is just the next logical step.
Its all a copy of other voice functions of earlier devices anyway. The only reason everyone thinks its amazing is because it comes from Apple. Sure it could evolve once it officially leaves Beta and become even better, I shall wait until then

Teebor said,

Nope, its a gimmick thats all

Actually I would point at android and say it had voice functions already but VERY limited, Siri is just the next logical step.
Its all a copy of other voice functions of earlier devices anyway. The only reason everyone thinks its amazing is because it comes from Apple. Sure it could evolve once it officially leaves Beta and become even better, I shall wait until then

I'd also point to android and say that Jelly-bean kicks it up a notch (Jelly-bean's voice search is not to be confused with Google Now, by the way). Unlike with most Apple v Android fights whereby you can generally find videos of either side wining depending on the author, I've yet to see many Siri/android comparisons where Siri wins outright.

Kushan said,

I'd also point to android and say that Jelly-bean kicks it up a notch (Jelly-bean's voice search is not to be confused with Google Now, by the way). Unlike with most Apple v Android fights whereby you can generally find videos of either side wining depending on the author, I've yet to see many Siri/android comparisons where Siri wins outright.

And I've seen too many real life situations where Siri just fails across the board. Directions? Ha! Took a few people about 10 minutes to finally get Siri to do what they were telling it to. Still never found the place they were asking about though.

That's not to say Google's is better or worse. I don't use it, in fact I don't use any voice commands. They just seem stupid to me when I can do the exact same thing faster and more accurately manually.

Teebor said,

The only reason everyone thinks its amazing is because it comes from Apple.

Exactly, the proof of this is that no one gave a toss about voice recognition apps or even the Siri app itself until Apple bought it.

DKAngel said,
and even so apple didnt invent siri, they bought it.

They now maintain and develop it. Not only that, but their marketing department markets it.

Is that fault due to Siri or WolphramAlpha? Either Siri misinterprets the data or WolframAlpha has got the wrong information in its database.

drazgoosh said,
Is that fault due to Siri or WolphramAlpha? Either Siri misinterprets the data or WolframAlpha has got the wrong information in its database.

...or Apple's marketing department?