Thursday, September 29, 2016

Siri's not home.

I hear that Siri is smart. This may be true, but I can’t comment because I have an Android phone. Instead of talking to Siri, I say “OK Google,” and then my phone springs to life. It does not, however, do my bidding.

The other evening, I called my aunt, Bea Dick. I got my phone’s attention, and then said “Call Bea Dick, home.” My phone lit up, noticed that I have no entries for Moby Dick in my address book, and proceeded to show me a Wikipedia article about Herman Melville’s book. I tried again, enunciating carefully: “Call Bea Dick, home.”

My phone confirmed my intentions. “Big dick?” it asked. I have no such entry in my address book, and don’t know what my phone might have done if I said yes.

“No,” I replied. Slowly, carefully, I explained “Bea Dick.” The phone still imagined I wanted to look at pictures of body parts. “NO!” I yelled. Google allowed as how it was having trouble understanding what I wanted, and suggested that I should ask for just a first or last name.

First I tried asking for Bea, but Google decided I wanted B. Since I had no such entries and the phone was too stupid to hazard a guess, it asked me to try again. I tried asking for Dick this time, with predictable results. Since the phone couldn't tell the difference between a "call" command and a "show me pictures" command, I dialed by hand.

Today I tried to call my friend Atef Aziz. Somehow, my phone thought I wanted to call Alexey. I do have one Alexey in my phone book, in Belarus. I'm in America now, so the phone proceeded to dial an expensive international call. I struggled to regain control and stop it. The phone did not give up easily.

Knowing after the Bea Dick incident that I could offer just a first or last name, I tried asking my phone to call Atef. Google looked in my address book for Atif and decided I had no such friend. Not knowing how to convince Google to use the proper vowel, I tried asking it to call Aziz. Presto! Next thing I know, I’m calling Alexey in Belarus once again.

I have too many foreign phone numbers in my directory to trust Google voice command for calls. Maybe one day, however, I’ll ask it to find me the nearest pizza parlor. I’m an optimist.

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