iPhone Life magazine

Getting the Most Out of Siri

I recently realized why it took me over a year to start making real use of Siri. The reason is a bit embarrassing. It's just that Siri seemed so much like a person. I didn't consciously realize that, though. Let me give you a couple examples. I recall one time wanting to show a friend how Siri worked, so I held down the home button. Siri responded, "What can I help you with?" But my friend was slow to catch on that I was giving him an opportunity to interact with Siri. There sat my iPad on the table, with Siri waiting. And my friend wasn't saying anything. Subconsciously I was thinking, "Hurry up, ask her something. She's waiting."

Even sillier, I realize now that I was cautious about using Siri because I didn't want to make mistakes. I was afraid of not being clear, of stumbling over my words. As if Siri were a real person who would be forming an opinion of me based on what I said.

All that ended, I'm glad to say, when I began using Siri more frequently, and simply playing around with it. Suddenly I could use Siri freely, could ask it dumb things, could hold down the button and then decide not to ask anything. It didn't make any difference; there wasn't anyone paying attention.

As I say, it's embarrassing to admit, and it was subconscious. But once I began using Siri freely, it was just so much darn fun. And useful.

A poll conducted by Intelligent Voice last fall after the release of iOS 7 found that 84 percent of iOS users don't use Siri. No doubt there are a variety of reasons for that, but of course I wonder if it's because other people have the same subconscious reaction that I did. I recall a friend telling me about how her young nieces really took to Siri on their iPhones. Very uninhibited. Perhaps older people find it difficult to make the adjustment, to realize subconsciously it's not a person.

In fact research has found an effect that's come to be called "uncanny valley," which refers to the phenomenon that as robots or graphically generated humans in video become more like us, it tends to subconsciously creep us out.  

Okay, so enough with that. Assuming you're completely comfortable using Siri, you'll want to check out a great article on GigaOm about getting the most out of Siri. The article covers a wide range of topics, such as how to teach Siri what to call you and how to correct Siri's pronunciation. Siri can not only listen to you, but can also read to you, and the article explains how to have Siri read text, ebooks, and notifications aloud. The article also covers how to use Siri to control your device, including changing settings, launching apps, and playing iTunes radio. And it covers sending an receiving messages.

Here's hoping you get the most out of Siri.

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Jim Karpen's picture

Jim Karpen holds a Ph.D. in literature and writing, and has a love of gizmos. His doctoral dissertation focused on the revolutionary consequences of digital technologies and anticipated some of the developments taking place in the industry today. Jim has been writing about the Internet and technology since 1994 and has been using Apple's visionary products for decades.