Siri the Imperfect Siren

Siri is like that. An irresistible temptress with a fascinating voice and a wealth of knowledge. One who answers your questions, guides you to your destination, and even suggests activities for you. But, like a siren, she is not infallible. And like a siren, she has a history and sisters that are trying to outdo her, but with limited success to date.

At its core, Siri is a very sophisticated voice recognition program that shares a technological history with other voice recognition platforms such as OnStar. Siri works worldwide with over a dozen applications such as stocks and weather, and (so far) English-only applications in the US such as maps. There are imperfections, however, that can cause frustration and dissatisfaction.

Misunderstanding the speaker is one of them; it’s going to happen with any voice recognition application. Imagine that a real person gives you a phone number over the phone. Do you think you would be able to get it on the first try? Isn’t it likely that you ask whoever you’re talking with to repeat it at least once? You probably do this for the simple reason that it’s hard for anyone to understand what another person is saying with 100% accuracy 100% of the time. It makes no difference what the topic is. Everyone has different speech patterns, accents, tonal values, etc., that make occasional misunderstandings inevitable. A speech recognition program is no different in that respect. It can misunderstand despite the developer’s best intentions.

With Siri, it’s a case of people having unrealistic expectations and just assuming Apple will always get it 100% right. Sure, Siri gets better as it gets to know you and builds its knowledge base. It’s unlikely, however, that Siri will ever get to 100% infallibility with its current software, or even with periodic upgrades.  But that’s okay because 100%  is really not necessary.

This premise can be true for any technology, even Vensi’s. Because of the complex nature of software development and its ongoing evolution, not all of the projects we do are going to be 100% perfect. We are able to meet our clients’ expectations in terms of functionality, delivery timetables and cost without trying to achieve the ambitious goal of perfection. We can get pretty close though, by partnering with our clients so that we really understand their needs, goals and objectives. We make sure that we satisfy every requirement, and deliver on time and on budget. We strive for perfection while balancing the real-world limitations of a competitive marketplace. That’s what Apple did with Siri: They set the bar at accomplishing the best that they could and they launched when they felt it was good enough. Like every technology and software company out there, they go to market as early as possible, knowing they will continue to make improvements and understanding that they will probably never get all the way to 100%.

Sometimes people expect perfection, but more often than not, our clients understand that perfection is not always possible or even necessary. Even if it is possible, it’s not something many clients really want because the cost and effort necessary to reach that last few percent of perfection far outweighs any value it might have.

Here at Vensi, we understand Pareto’s Law: if we can get 80% of the functionality in 20% of the time, the remaining 20% of the functionality will take 80% of the time. Our goal is to balance functionality with our ability to provide high quality, cost-effective mobile and web solutions in a timely manner to our clients. This approach works.

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