Siri is a virtual assistant with a voice-controlled natural language interface that uses sequential inference and contextual awareness to help perform personal tasks for iOS users. Spun out of the DARPA-funded CALO project, Siri was initially developed by Dag Kittlaus and his team of SRI International as an iPhone app. Apple bought Siri in 2010. In October of 2011 Apple re-released it as part of iOS 5. Siri is currently run by Bill Stasior, vice president, Siri, and the technology is integrated into the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad, and into Apple’s new HomeKit home automation framework.
“Hey, Siri…” Setting up Siri hands-free in iOS 8
Before iOS 8 the only way to activate Siri was by pressing and holding the iPhone or iPad’s home button for a few seconds. The familiar double-beep would chime and then Siri would wait for you to speak your request. But with iOS 8 Apple introduced a new feature to Siri that makes the service much smarter and easier to use. It’s called “Hey, Siri” and allows you to activate Siri by just using your voice.
There are a few steps you need to take before being able to use the “Hey, Siri…” feature. The first step is you need to enable voice activation in Siri’s settings. To do this:
- Go to the Settings app on your iOS device.
- Tap General
- Tap Siri
- Where it says ‘Allow “Hey, Siri…”’ toggle the ON/OFF switch to ON (green).
The above steps will enable “Hey, Siri…” but the hands-free feature will unfortunately only work when your iOS device is plugged into a power source (the power source could be a wall charger or a USB port on a laptop). If your iOS device is not plugged in “Hey, Siri…” will not work.
Apple did this because the “Hey, Siri…” feature requires your iOS device to constantly be listening for your voice commands, which means it’s drawing extra power from your battery. Limiting “Hey, Siri…” to plugged-in iOS devices ensures you aren’t going to drain your battery faster throughout the day.
Using “Hey, Siri…”
Once you have “Hey, Siri…” enabled and your iOS device plugged in, simply say, “Hey, Siri…” followed by your request. “Hey, Siri…” requests aren’t limited either. Anything you can ask Siri by activating her by touch you can ask Siri in “Hey, Siri…” mode. This includes, but is not limited to, asking Siri to read your emails, check the weather, set reminders, and more.
At first I though “Hey, Siri…” was a feature that was a bit gimmicky, but I’ve come to find is that it is extremely useful at night when I’m lounging around in my flat watching TV and my iPhone is plugged in by my nightstand. Instead of getting up to check a text message, I can simply say “Hey Siri, read my text I just got…” and she does it. Or when I see something advertised in a commercial I just say “Hey Siri, reminder me to pick up that new brand of toilet tissue” and she sets a reminder. All this happens with my iPhone across the room.
The “Hey, Siri” feature is also incredibly useful when I’m going to bed at night. My iPhone is my alarm clock and as soon as I hit the sack all I need to do after I turn out the lights is say “Hey, Siri, set my alarm for 9AM” and my alarm is set. I don’t even need to touch my phone.
Using “Hey, Siri” to identify a song
Siri can now identify any songs too, and she does this using Shazam’s song identification technology. Using Siri’s Shazam capabilities combined with her “Hey, Siri” features means you can be watching a TV show and when a song comes on that you like you don’t even need to reach for you phone to identify it. You can just say “Hey, Siri, what song is this?” and Siri will listen to the song and identify it within seconds. What’s even better is this identified song will automatically be added to a “Siri” section in your iTunes previews history, so you can browse your Siri’d songs and choose which you want to buy later.
What “Hey, Siri” means for the future of the Apple TV
At first it may seem odd correlating the “Hey, Siri” feature with the Apple TV, but it’s actually the most logical use for “Hey, Siri”. There are plenty of rumours that the next generation Apple TV will be more than a digital media player. Instead, it’s likely it could be the centre brain of an “Apple Home” that works with other iOS 8 features like HomeKit.
Since HomeKit uses Siri voice commands to allow users to interact with their smart devices, it’s likely “Hey, Siri” will be the key user interface of choice for the next Apple TV. Matter of fact “Hey, Siri” could be the only remote the next Apple TV comes with.
“Hey, Siri, turn off the lights in the kitchen.” “Hey, Siri, change the channel.” “Hey, Siri, show me the weather for tomorrow.”
You get the idea. “Hey, Siri” is also likely for the next Apple TV because it’s power requirements would be negligible since the Apple TV is always plugged in –– unlike an iOS device.
If I were a betting man, I’d say there’s a 90% chance this is why “Hey, Siri” was included in iOS 8, as means for Apple to test the feature out before integrating it as the main interface of the product it is actually destined for–the Apple TV.
Until then, “Hey, Siri” is still a pretty cool feature for your iPhone.