More Data Detectors Please

If I had to guess, I would guess that 95% of all of my phone calls are work related. I would guess that most people in my age bracket would find the same to be true. The fact is: text messages and email are far easier for both the sender and receiver.

All of this got me to thinking about the role of smart, OS-embedded assistants like Siri. Right now iOS’s Siri can only do two things:

  1. Find answers to very specific questions, given a small set of input phrases.
  2. Send reminders about tasks, timers, alarms, and appointments.

That’s not much of an assistant — unless you hire your assistant to never leave her desk and to only make your phone beep…

Yet Siri really could be the ultimate assistant, because Siri could always be listening and — since Siri doesn’t judge — that wouldn’t really be an issue for most people.

Let’s imagine that Siri listened in on your phone calls. In my typical work call at least one of the following tends to happen:

  • A phone number is given to me.
  • I schedule a meeting.
  • I am given a task that needs to be done.
  • We exchange some information that I want to remember.

Since I take most of my calls on the road, after hanging up I tell Siri to take note of the things I want to remember. Even at the office, after a call I have to open up the proper application on my Mac to note the item.

But if Siri were listening to my call she could just remember that stuff for me.

So if someone I’m speaking with asks me to “Call Bob at 432-737-0000″, when I end the call Siri could ask me: “Do you want to call Bob at 432-737-0000, or should I make a note of that number?”

Now that’s helpful.

Siri could also schedule appointments as you discuss them, remind you about tasks you agree to, and make notes of the things you mention that you want to remember. At the end of a long call Siri could present you with a list of those things and you could confirm or decline each item.

That’s more than just helpful. That’s a killer feature.

One Step Further

If Siri listening to the call isn’t neat enough for you, imagine if she read your messages — email, SMS, voicemail — and told you if there was anything urgent.

This is more than just voice message transcription, like Google Voice, it’s a fundamental understanding of the data within the messages — both text and voice. So if I’m in a meeting, not paying attention to my phone and my wife calls with a message that contains the word “hospital”, Siri could plaster a notification on my lock screen telling me I have an urgent message from my wife.

Likewise Siri could auto-update meetings if someone left me a message saying they were going to be 15 minutes late, and she could alert me if that causes any conflicts with other meetings.

This wouldn’t be easy, I know, and Siri would get a lot of things wrong, but even if Siri could just get most things right this would be amazingly helpful.

If Bob left me a voice message that said “Hey Ben, you free for lunch on Tuesday at noon?”, Siri could pop up a question that asks me to confirm an appointment with Bob on Tuesday at noon — just like iOS already does from emailed meeting invites. Hell, Siri could even respond to Bob for me if I confirmed the meeting. And, if Bob didn’t suggest a location for the meeting, Siri could ask him where we should meet.

Pipe Dreams

Right now I feel like these are all Star Trek-level pipe dreams, but I have to imagine it’s something we will see soon.

When? I think within the next 5-10 years.

The other question is who gets there first? Google and Apple are obvious choices, but if computing is heading here, maybe it’s the perfect entry for a new player.

Originally posted for members on: January 15, 2013
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