Siri Held Back by Lack of Advancements in Microphone Technology

Discussion in ' News Discussion' started by MacRumors, Aug 25, 2016.

  1. MacRumors macrumors bot


    Apr 12, 2001

    Services like Siri, Cortana, and Alexa are being held back by a lack of advancements in digital microphone technology, reports Bloomberg, citing the opinions of several analysts.

    While processors, camera sensors, and other vital iPhone components have evolved rapidly over the course of the last several years, the same can't be said for microphones. Digital microphones still have trouble focusing on filtering out background noise and clearly detecting faraway voices, impacting device listening capabilities.

    With artificial intelligence growing in popularity, however, Bloomberg says manufacturers are scrambling to improve microphone tech.
    Apple and other companies who rely on microphones to deliver queries to smartphones and other devices are said to want technology improvements that will make them better able to distinguish voices from other sounds at longer distances.

    In a recent interview, Apple SVP of software engineering Craig Federighi said that microphones have a big impact on Siri's ability to understand commands. "It's not just the silicon," he said. "It's how many microphones we put on the device, where we place the microphones. How we tune the hardware and those mics and the software stack that does the audio processing." He said Apple's expertise at combining hardware and software gives the company "an incredible advantage" over companies just working on AI with software.

    In the same interview, Apple execs said Siri's capacity to interpret commands has reportedly improved greatly following the introduction of machine learning, but in practice, Siri still often fails to hear commands or misinterprets spoken words, mistakes that could perhaps be improved with better microphone technology in the future.

    Siri has long been limited to iOS devices and the Apple Watch, but with the launch of macOS Sierra this fall, the personal assistant will expand to Macs. Siri also came to the Apple TV last fall with the launch of the fourth-generation set-top box.

    Article Link: Siri Held Back by Lack of Advancements in Microphone Technology
  2. Roadstar macrumors 65816


    Sep 24, 2006
    Vantaa, Finland
    Umm, how exactly is it a microphone problem when I can see a 100% correct transcription of what I just said, but Siri still fails to do anything useful with it?
  3. SandboxGeneral Moderator emeritus


    Sep 8, 2010
    That's an interesting take on the issue, one that I hadn't considered before. If anyone could solve this issue and advance the technology for microphones I think it would be Apple.
  4. patrickdunn macrumors 6502a


    Apr 16, 2009
    St. Louis, MO
  5. GfPQqmcRKUvP macrumors 68040


    Sep 29, 2005
    Exactly. Also, if industry-wide microphone technology is the limiting factor (and has stagnated since the iPhone 5) then how have Google Now and Cortana advanced so much while Siri remains close to useless?
  6. Stuey3D macrumors 6502


    Jul 8, 2014
    Northamptonshire, United Kingdom
    No Siri is held back because she is stupid, she can hear what I'm saying fine.

    See my post in the iOS10 forum about how she doesn't understand a simple command to "play downloaded music" I mean the section is right there in the bloody app.
  7. Pbrutto macrumors 6502a


    Apr 21, 2015
    Eastern PA
    This is where mic manufacturers like sure missed the boat on making more cash and driving their own development
  8. macsrcool1234 macrumors 65816

    Oct 7, 2010
  9. manu chao macrumors 603

    Jul 30, 2003
    Clearly there are multiple failure points. If Siri could interpret 100% of what it transcribes, this would help you but it wouldn't help those for whom Siri fails to properly transcribe the commands.
  10. Dilster3k macrumors 6502a


    Jul 20, 2014
    Yeah just point the finger elsewhere if you suck.

    - Dictated perfectly by Siri

    Screen Shot 2016-08-26 at 12.25.21 AM.png
  11. rjohnstone macrumors 68040


    Dec 28, 2007
    PHX, AZ.
    They seem to be talking about distinguishing voices at a distance.
    I can see issues with that, but that still doesn't excuse poor performance when the device is in your hand.
  12. keysofanxiety macrumors G3


    Nov 23, 2011
    This was a report independent of Apple and mentioned services other than Siri.

    I hate saying "read the article" but it's possibly relevant in this case.
  13. mattopotamus macrumors G5


    Jun 12, 2012
    Oh that's why Alexa can hear me from across a noisy room?!
  14. rizzo41999 macrumors 6502


    May 27, 2009
    This is kinda pathetic. Industry is full of excuses recently
  15. 2010mini macrumors 601

    Jun 19, 2013
    Apple holds back Siri from mining your data unlike Google and Amazon.
  16. npmacuser5 macrumors 65816


    Apr 10, 2015
    In the long run, Siri will come out ahead. The others mentioned lean heavy on scripted responses, work great until more complex requirements arise. In the short term the other guys may perform better. Apple's approach with improved input, better hearing, will quickly catch up and surpass the scripted responses. The turtle and hare or house of cards, Apple has a good solid foundation to be a leader. Wait a year and will see how it develops.
  17. keysofanxiety macrumors G3


    Nov 23, 2011
    Most people here have been saying "wait a year and see what happens with Siri" for the last few years.

    Regardless, I admire your optimism and hope you're right :)
  18. yaxomoxay macrumors 68040


    Mar 3, 2010
    Lamest excuse ever.
    If that's the problem then invest a boatload of money in developing your own Siri-enhancing microphone, as Siri is advertised as the future.
  19. madsci954 macrumors 68030

    Oct 14, 2011
    The other day, I used Hey Siri to set a timer. I used my Watch (running the latest live OS), iPhone 6s Plus (running the latest live OS) in my pocket, my iPad Pro (running the latest PB of iOS 10) on the pillow of my bed with its Smart Keyboard cover on. I was standing at the foot of my bed, queen size.

    My Watch took the command, my iPhone didn't, my iPad...did! My room was quiet, TV on, and I wasn't speaking loud. It isn't the mics, it's Siri itself and what it can and can't do.
  20. PabloSRT8 macrumors member


    Aug 25, 2016
  21. mi7chy macrumors 603


    Oct 24, 2014
    Sounds like an excuse because I can whisper across the room to a $45 Moto G and Google voice commands work fine but even up close Siri is airheaded so I highly doubt it's the microphones unless Apple sourced some pretty cheap ones across all iPhone and iPad models.
  22. AppleScruff1 macrumors G4


    Feb 10, 2011
    Siri's problems are a bit deeper than microphone technology.
  23. GfPQqmcRKUvP macrumors 68040


    Sep 29, 2005
    Keep telling yourselves this. Maybe pick up a phone with Google Now or Cortana. You really think Apple has a monopoly on AI/voice recognition competence over Google and Microsoft? Please.
  24. Karma*Police macrumors 68000

    Jul 15, 2012
    Every head to head I've seen shows that Google, Cortana and Alexa aren't any better than Siri yet some in the media and posts like this have propagated the myth that somehow Siri is behind.

    I have Google Now and have used Alexa extensively enough to come to the same conclusion; they're not any better and in the case of Alexa, I think it's worse. Too often, Alexa simply craps out and fails to respond.
  25. npmacuser5, Aug 25, 2016
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2016

    npmacuser5 macrumors 65816


    Apr 10, 2015
    Just an opinion. Have used both Google and Cortina, a bit better now as I said. The approach Apple is taking along with hardware integration should reap good benefits for Apple and their users.

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