What is Siri? What Does it Mean for How We Search?

You may have heard of the new feature on the iPhone 4S (the iPhone that came out last week) called Siri. Lots of people seem to be talking about it but lots are still wondering what it actually is.

What it is

Siri is a speech-recognition “personal assistant” that is built into the device. You verbally ask Siri questions and it answers you. Siri can pull information from a variety of sources; like your location (since it is your phone and it knows where you are). So if you ask the upcoming weather, it can tell you the weather for your exact location. Siri can execute lots of  small operations inside the device, like update an item you have on your calendar.

Although Siri can work with many functions on your iPhone it’s still not compatible with most third party apps at this time. One exciting thing about Siri, other than the coolness, is that the functions and voice recognition will continue to be refined the more that people use it. Siri will be collecting data from users and updating how the system operates. For a full review on Siri, its features and drawbacks check out this recent Mashable post – iPhone 4S: Siri is Impressive, But Still a Work in Progress [REVIEW].

Siri says some funny things

With any new technology, the first step is official testing and then when it is released to the public comes the ‘unofficial testing’. That is where we simply play with it, try to stump the technology or maybe even try to break it. This is the step we are at with Siri now. People are creating blogs and tumbler accounts just on the funny things Siri says. This is why Siri was on a local radio program during the morning drive yesterday – because it says funny things. We will continue to play with the new functionality until one day it is just the norm. Some day soon, talking to your phone and asking it questions will be completely normal.

With Siri as your personal assistant, some have even wondered if there is doom on the horizon for their own personal assistants. The New York Times posted this fun video of filmmaker Casey Neistat putting his real assistant against Siri in a series of tasks.

What Siri means for how we search

Siri highlights a few major changes in search that I wanted to talk about. All of this is not brand new but with the launch of this new device it puts new functionality literally in the palm of users hands.

  1. Mobile searches focus on doing something – A trend we, at Hall, have been seeing in mobile searches vs. desktop searches is that these users are more often looking to complete an action – look for directions, contact someone, buy something, share content etc.
  2. Mobile search is powerful – As noted above, people who are searching on a mobile device are looking to complete an action. A mobile user is more connected to their search. Like the use of QR codes, capturing this in-tune audience is imperative to making a connection with them. Your QR code or mobile searcher should not be treated like a regular web browser. Your website should be ready for them. Make sure your site looks good to a mobile user, consider a mobile site and make what they are looking for easy to find.
  3. Mobile searches are increasing – Another trend we are seeing is that mobile searching is on the rise. With the launch of Siri, you can start your mobile search with your voice and if Siri does not know they answer it suggests a mobile search for the phrase you asked. As this type of functionality increases (I am sure iPhone competitors are already working on it) more individuals will be searching from their phone, is your website ready for mobile traffic?
  4. Mobile searches, especially on iProducts, can be tricky – With this unofficial testing moving into common use, more people will be searching on their iProducts. Still have that pretty website made with flash? Well all your users coming from iPhones, iPads and iPods can’t view it.
  5. Siri knows where you are – Siri is a part of your phone, which is physically with you. This makes location so important. Looking for the weather, a restaurant, a business? Siri not only combines your keywords that you search but also your physical location to bring back to you the most appropriate results. Is your company optimized in local search so that people can find you?
  6. Adding context of the search – A lot of the functionality of Siri we have seen before but not as seamlessly together as this. For example, if you ask, ‘Do I need an umbrella today?’ Siri calls multiple data points; where you are located, what the weather is in that location and if it is going to rain (meaning you will need an umbrella). That is pretty impressive.

It may seem silly for awhile but the functionality of Siri is probably the way we are heading. With anything in the digital world, there is countless data surrounding it. Siri is the first in the game to pull so many pieces of information together, present it in a conversational framework (and sometimes sassy) and brought it to the mass market. Things could get a little interesting, just make sure your business and your website are ready for the future of searching!