WWDC 2019: Siri Expected to Become More Useful With Third-Party Apps on iOS 13 and More

iOS 13 will enable developers to integrate Siri into their apps for several new use cases, including media playback, search, voice calling, event ticketing, message attachments, flights, train trips, and airport gate and seat information, according to 9to5Mac's Guilherme Rambo.


In a report today, Rambo detailed several other developer-focused features that he expects Apple to announce at WWDC in June, including the ability for iOS apps ported to the Mac to use Mac-specific features such as the Touch Bar and keyboard shortcuts along with support for multiple windows.

Rambo says enabling Mac support for an existing iOS app is "as easy as checking a checkbox" in Xcode, akin to adding iPad support to an iPhone app.

Apple's augmented reality platform ARKit is said to gain "significant improvements" this year, including a brand new Swift-only framework for augmented reality and a companion app that lets developers create augmented reality experiences visually. ARKit is also said to gain the ability to detect human poses.

Developers are also expected to gain access to a handful of new frameworks that allow for expanded use of the Taptic Engine, document scanning in third-party apps, and the ability to capture photos from external devices such as cameras and SD cards without having to go through Apple's Photos app.

Last, on the Mac, apps will supposedly be able to offer file provider extensions, improving the integration of apps like Dropbox with Finder.

Related Roundups: WWDC 2019, iOS 13, macOS 10.15
Tag: Siri

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Apple Purchases Machine Learning Startup Laserlike

Apple last year acquired Laserlike, a machine learning startup located in Silicon Valley, reports The Information. Apple's purchase of the four-year-old company was confirmed by an Apple spokesperson with a standard acquisition statement: "Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans."

Laserlike's website says that its core mission is to deliver "high quality information and diverse perspectives on any topic from the entire web to you."


The company built a search app that used discovery and personalization machine learning techniques to build a Laserlike app described as an "interest search engine" that provided news, web, video, and local content relevant to each user. The Laserlike app is no longer available following the acquisition, but the company's website continues to cover what it was focused on:
We live in a world of information abundance, where the main problem is sifting through the noise and discovering the stuff you actually care about. For instance, if you care about knowing when the next SpaceX livestream launch is because you like to watch it with your kids, or if the car you bought two years ago has had a recall, or if a company you're interested in announces it's opening a new office where you live, or if there's a music festival coming to your town, you don't know when to look for these things, and there's no product that informs you automatically.

This is one of the things we want to fix on the Internet. Laserlike's core mission is to deliver high quality information and diverse perspectives on any topic from the entire web. We are passionate about helping people follow their interests and engage with new perspectives.
The Information suggests that Apple will use the Laserlike acquisition to strengthen its artificial intelligence efforts, including Siri. The Laserlike team has joined the Apple AI group led by new Apple AI chief John Giannandrea, who came to Apple from Google last year.

Giannandrea has been tasked with improving Apple's machine learning initiatives and bolstering Siri, the company's voice assistant. Laserlike's technology could potentially allow Siri to learn more about Apple users to provide more tailored, personalized content.


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Apple Seeking Analyst to Monitor Siri Complaints Trending on Social Media

If you have ever complained about Siri on Twitter or likewise, your feedback could actually make its way to Apple executives.

Screenshot via /r/SiriFail

A recent Apple job listing seeks an engineering program manager to "monitor what the world is saying about Siri through social media, news, and other sources." This will include detecting "Siri issues that are going viral or otherwise trending" and reporting them to the Siri team and its leadership.

Based on user feedback, the employee will be required to provide recommendations for next steps on areas where the Siri user experience could be improved. The person will also work with Apple's marketing teams to ensure external information like Apple support documents are updated to clear up misunderstandings.

The employee will have a secondary responsibility of working alongside Siri software engineers to ensure the success of Apple marketing campaigns, press events, product announcements, and product launches involving Siri.

As noted by VentureBeat, which first discovered the job listing, the employee will be able to "drive rapid-response solutions," hopefully meaning the company will quickly address any trending issues before they become embarrassing headlines like the major FaceTime privacy bug unearthed in late January.

Any improvements to Siri would be welcomed, as the assistant is widely considered to have fallen behind its rivals Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. Siri has already shown some signs of progress lately under the leadership of Apple's recently promoted artificial intelligence chief John Giannandrea.


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Siri Shortcuts Expands to American Airlines, Caviar, and Other Apps, Coming Soon to Airbnb and More

Apple today announced that American Airlines, Dexcom, Caviar, Merriam Webster, and Spectre have added Siri Shortcuts support to their apps this week. Airbnb, Drop, ReSound, and Smarter also plan to add Siri Shortcuts integration to their apps between March and April, according to Apple.


In the Airbnb app, for example, you'll be able to access details on your stay such as the check-in time and Wi-Fi password by setting up a Siri voice command such as "Hey Siri, my Airbnb stay," according to CNET.

Apple says thousands of apps now support Siri Shortcuts, which debuted as a key feature of iOS 12 last year. Apple's examples include Waze, Nike Run Club, Seamless, Instacart, DSLR Camera, Pandora, Tile, Overcast, Evernote, Citymapper, Kayak, Hotels.com, British Airways, VRBO, and The Weather Channel.

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Siri Shortcuts let you create voice and tap-activated automations that can complete multiple complex tasks in just a few seconds. The feature is available in the Settings app under Siri & Search and through the dedicated Shortcuts app.


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Epson Printers Gain Siri Shortcuts Support for Voice-Activated Printing

Printer company Epson today announced the launch of voice-activated mobile printing support for Siri, Amazon Alexa, and Google Assistant. With the addition, iOS users can snap a photo and ask Siri to print to a compatible Epson printer thanks to Siri Shortcuts.


You'll need the Epson iPrint app, which now supports Apple's new Shortcuts app on iOS. After the shortcut is installed, you can set up a voice activation phrase for printing, and when an image is displayed on your iPhone ask Siri to print it, even if you aren't home.

Other commands supported include scanning a document with an iPhone, iPad, or the Epson printer, and you can also ask Siri how much ink you have left in the printer. The company says all of these Shortcuts will help streamline printing and scanning documents since you will no longer have to navigate any software menus.
“Our customers have overloaded daily routines and are always looking for ways to save time and quickly get errands done,” said Jack Rieger, senior product manager of software and user experience, Epson America. “By expanding compatibility with some of the top smart home voice assistants, Epson is committed to making printing and scanning easier and more efficient for all of our busy customers.”
Compatible printers include those with support for the Epson Connect service, like Epson EcoTank, WorkForce, and Expression models. Once enabled, you can say "Hey Siri, open Epson printer" to get started.

Tag: Siri

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Apple Tweaks British and Australian Speaking Voices for Siri on HomePod

Over the past 24 hours, we've seen a handful of reports talking about a new update to the speaking voice of Siri on HomePod in a few regions. These reports are mostly located in the United Kingdom and Australia, and mention the British (Male and Female) and Australian (Male and Female) speaking voices for the assistant, specifically on Apple's HomePod smart speaker.


The change appears to be very subtle. MacRumors readers described the Australian Female and British Male voices as "more natural" and "much clearer," and similar reports have emerged about other voices. Although there are many different descriptions for each voice, the consensus appears to be that the tweaks make Siri sound more human-like.

HomePod users can choose any Siri voice no matter the region they are located in, but as of now the vast majority of these reports appear to be located in the same regions as the voice they represent. This may be the beginning of a wider rollout, but that's still unclear at this point.

Twitter user @callumjcoe recorded the difference between the current iteration of the Australian Female voice (on an iPad) and the updated voice (on HomePod). Of course, distortion and muddled sound quality from a recording don't provide a perfect example, but there is a slight change between the two heard in the video, which is likely much more pronounced in person.


As of writing, MacRumors hasn't noticed any similar updates to Siri on HomePod (for any voices) in the United States. Apple has updated Siri over the past year with improvements to the assistant's ability to recognize local businesses and destinations, as well as new jokes, but many Apple users remain frustrated with the technology. One of the last major updates to Siri came in iOS 11 in 2017, when Apple gave Siri a more natural voice that had better pronunciation and different inflection depending on what's being said.

In early 2018, Siri creator, co-founder, and former board member Norman Winarsky talked about the origins of Siri and the company's intentions for the assistant before Apple acquired it. According to the co-founder, Siri was originally meant to be incredibly intelligent in just a few key areas -- travel and entertainment -- and then "gradually extend to related areas" once it mastered each. Apple's acquisition pivoted Siri to an all-encompassing life assistant, and Winarsky said that this decision has likely led Apple to search "for a level of perfection they can't get."

Although unconfirmed, the new voice changes to Siri may be Apple's latest attempt to make the voice assistant more personable and easy to talk to, in the wake of ongoing user complaints. If the changes roll out to other regions, we'll update this article.

(Thanks Sebastian, Robert, and Jared!)

Related Roundup: HomePod
Tag: Siri
Buyer's Guide: HomePod (Neutral)

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Waze App for iOS Gains Siri Shortcuts Support

Google-owned mapping app Waze was today updated with support for the Siri Shortcuts feature that Apple introduced in iOS 12.

With Siri Shortcuts in Waze, you can record shortcuts for your drive home, drive to work, favorite locations, and more, all of which can be activated with a simple Siri voice command.


Waze is a popular Apple Maps alternative on iOS devices as it is known for its accurate traffic and hazard alerts, along with time-saving routing changes.

Siri Shortcuts for Waze can be set up by opening up the Settings app on the iPhone, navigating to "Siri & Search," and tapping the "Shortcuts" button. From there, either scroll down to the Waze section or search for Waze.

You will need to have your home, work, and favorite locations set up within the Waze app for those options to show up.

Waze can be downloaded from the App Store for free. [Direct Link]

(Thanks, Shawn!)


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Apple Exec Overseeing Siri Departs Role

Bill Stasior, who has been heading up Apple's Siri team since 2012, recently left his role as the leader of the voice assistant group, reports The Information.

Stasior was recruited from Amazon in 2012 to oversee Siri following the departure of Siri co-founders Adam Cheyer and Dag Kittlaus. Cheyer and Kittlaus had joined Apple when the company originally purchased Siri in 2010, but did not stay long.


According to The Information, Stasior has stepped down from his role as leader of Siri but has not left Apple. The change in leadership is part of a restructuring effort by John Giannandrea, Apple's senior vice president of machine learning and AI strategy, who has taken over the Siri team.

Giannandrea, who has been pushing the Siri team to "focus more on long-term research" rather than incremental improvements, will be looking for a replacement for Stasior.

Giannandrea joined Apple in April 2018 as chief of machine learning and AI strategy, and at the time, it was reported that he would be overseeing both the Core ML and Siri teams. Ginnandrea was later promoted to SVP in December 2018.

Prior to joining Apple, Giannandrea spent eight years at Google, and in the time before that, he founded two companies, Tellme Networks and Metaweb Technologies.

Giannandrea's hiring came amid widespread criticism of Siri, which has shortcomings in comparison to AI offerings from companies like Microsoft, Amazon, and Google. Apple made serious strides improving Siri in 2018 under Giannandrea's leadership, building out the capabilities of the AI assistant with features like Siri Shortcuts in iOS 12.

Tag: Siri

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AirPods 2 Support for ‘Hey Siri’ Already in iOS 12.2 Beta

The iOS 12.2 beta, which was seeded to developers this morning, includes a hidden setup screen that confirms Apple's work on a new version of the AirPods with a "Hey Siri" feature.

The new setup screen, which was uncovered by 9to5Mac, indicates AirPods users will be able to activate Siri with a "Hey Siri" command. The currently available AirPods do not support "Hey Siri" functionality, and rumors have suggested Apple is working on a second-generation version.


When the second-generation AirPods are available, users will be asked to set up the "Hey Siri" feature when pairing the AirPods to an iOS device for the first time. With "Hey Siri" activated, AirPods users will be able to ask Siri questions without the need to tap on the earphones.

Rumors of second-generation AirPods have been circulating for some time, and "Hey Siri" functionality has been an expected feature. Apple itself showed off "Hey Siri" capabilities on the AirPods during the introduction to its September 2018 keynote event introducing new iPhones.


The inclusion of the "Hey Siri" setup menu in iOS 12.2 perhaps suggests that we're nearing the release of second-generation AirPods.

We've also been expecting second-generation AirPods to feature a wireless charging case to be used with the AirPower, and the delay of the AirPower has presumably led to the delay of the new AirPods. It's not clear if Apple is planning to release an AirPods update without the AirPower, but in recent weeks, we've heard rumors suggesting the AirPower is finally being manufactured, which means we could see a release in the next few months.

Yesterday, a new AirPods rumor from DigiTimes suggested Apple would introduce next-generation AirPods with an unspecified "health monitoring" feature during the first half of 2019. Whatever health functionality DigiTimes is talking about could be included alongside wireless charging and the confirmed "Hey Siri" feature.

Reliable Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has also said that we can expect new AirPods to be released in early 2019.

Related Roundup: AirPods
Tag: Siri
Buyer's Guide: AirPods (Caution)

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Apple AI Chief John Giannandrea Gets Promotion to Senior Vice President

Apple today announced John Giannandrea, who handles machine learning and AI for the company, has been promoted to the Apple's executive team and is now listed on the Apple Leadership page as a senior vice president.

Giannandrea joined Apple as its chief of machine learning and AI strategy in April 2018, stealing him away from Google where he ran Google's search and artificial intelligence unit.


At the time, Apple said Giannandrea would lead the company's AI and machine learning teams, reporting directly to Apple CEO Tim Cook. Giannandrea took over leadership of Siri and combined Apple's Siri and Core ML teams.

According to Apple's press release announcing the promotion, Giannandrea's team has focused on advancing and tightly integrating machine learning into Apple products, leading to more personal, intelligent, and natural interactions for customers while also protecting user privacy.

Apple CEO Tim Cook says that the company is "fortunate" to have Giannandrea at the helm of its AI and machine learning efforts.
"John hit the ground running at Apple and we are thrilled to have him as part of our executive team," said Tim Cook, Apple's CEO. "Machine learning and AI are important to Apple's future as they are fundamentally changing the way people interact with technology, and already helping our customers live better lives. We're fortunate to have John, a leader in the AI industry, driving our efforts in this critical area."
Prior to joining Apple, Giannandrea spent eight years at Google, and in the time before that, he founded two companies, Tellme Networks and Metaweb Technologies.

Giannandrea's April hiring came amid ongoing criticism of Siri, which many have criticized for its shortcomings in comparison to AI offerings from companies like Microsoft, Amazon, and Google. Apple made serious strides improving Siri in 2018, building out the capabilities of the AI assistant with features like Siri Shortcuts in iOS 12.


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