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Iris may be no Siri, but that's not saying much

Iris was a response to Siri, created during an eight hour "hackathon" at Dexetra, the creators of Iris. It's available on the Android Marketplace.

I installed Iris and decided to have a little fun with it. And in return I guess Iris decided to have a little fun with me.

I tried to ask it two questions:
  1. Who is Matthew Robertson
  2. Who is Kirk Tuck
It missed both. I can see how it missed identifying Matthew with such an unbounded question, but it missed identifying Kirk by a country mile. Apparentely I have an accent (must be my Scottish ancestry). Iris kept confusing 'Tuck' with 'Talk', with the amusing results you see.

While Siri is still in beta, Iris is definitely in alpha. While I've only shown a few questions, Iris, when you're careful what you ask, is surprisingly good at finding answers (which, come to think if it, is the way most flesh-and-blood people are as well).

I wonder if Iris is capable of passing the Turing test in its current state. The answer is probably no, but then I know a lot of flesh-and-blood people who couldn't pass it either.

The foundation for building verbal assistants such as Iris already exists on Android. It's just a matter of mashing up the various bits to create something useful. This is one reason why I like Android. It's the 21st century digital equivalent of those old electronic learning labs I had when I was a kid. The Android platform contains a rich environment of services and functionality for writing just about anything.


  1. So of course I had to try this.

    Asking Siri about my own name was too easy, it just pulled up my own information from my contacts. I then told it to search for Matthew Robertson on the web, which brought me straight to the search results page in Google. No surprises there.

    Asking "Who is Bill Beebe" stressed it a little more, because that's not an exact match to the information that I have in my Contacts. So instead it returned three partial matches, and then asked me which one was correct. Not bad.

    But there was nothing, absolutely nothing, that I could do to make Siri hear "Tuck" instead of "Talk". I care-ful-ly anun-ci-ated, changed emphasis and speeds, tried different context: I just got back "I don't understand 'Talk in the sheets'." All I could do was spell out TUCK, which was no problem, and search Google that way.

    Using Siri still feels a bit like the talking dog: I'm amazed that it can do anything, even when it gets a lot of it wrong.

  2. And so I went back and asked "Who is Bill Beebe" and it went looking for "Who is Bill Baby". I tried three times and it only got it right once.

    Then I asked Iris to call my wife. After four attempts I just gave up after it came back and said repeatedly "Call who?"

    Yes, Iris is alpha-level software and definitely needs more work.


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