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.