Siri’s Joey Votto Adventure

I’ve been a long-term admitted Apple fan as long as I can remember, literally. I’ve been using Apple products continuously since I started messing with my prized dad’s Apple II at 18 months old, irritating him to no end. When I wouldn’t leave it alone, he took up my mom’s suggestion, and instead of barring me from it, taught me how to use it. Hence, a technophile was born.

I still use Apple products for computing almost exclusively, except where banned (my work machine), and was excited to update my iPhone 4s to iOS6 when it was released. One of the biggest improvements trumpeted by the new iOS is the further integration of Siri, the speech-activated digital assistant, and her new skills. The one I was most excited about? Her ability to pull up sports information.

After install, I figured I’d give Siri a simple little test drive. I asked her for the batting average of Joey Votto, star first baseman of the Cincinnati Reds and widely considered one of the best all-around players in baseball today. That proved… a little difficult.

First, I asked Siri the direct question, “What is Joey Votto’s batting average”

Okay, so hearing and distinguishing the “V” in “Votto” proved a little bit tough, and that’s understandable given the similarity in pronunciation to a “B” and the fact that I’m not exactly great at annunciating. So, I tried a different approach and asked about him non-specifically…

Hmmm. That certainly didn’t work quite right, either. In old-school Siri form, she found information that kind of fit, but obviously didn’t have any idea what I was asking for. Now, I tried to see if she understood the positions in baseball at all:

She mostly understood the question that time, and to be fair, Cairo filled in a first base during Votto’s trip to the disabled list, which ended just recently. Maybe she’ll know about him if I call him by his number?

Success! Well, success with apologies to Brandon Tate, since I didn’t specify which Cincinnati team. I remain unsure if this result is Siri remaining in context of the conversation or if she didn’t realize Mr. Tate existed. So, I asked her a context-specific question using a pronoun to get to my desired result, a spoken answer to the original question…

The lesson here? Siri in iOS6 is much improved, but still a work in progress… and as she currently exists, still seemingly little more than a novelty.

Author: Andrew Shears

Andrew Shears is an Assistant Professor of Geography at Mansfield University in Mansfield, Pennsylvania. His research interests lie at an intersection of the human-environmental nexus, and includes branches of mapping, technological, memorialization and urban geographies. He lives in Wellsboro, Pennsylvania with his wife Amy, a professional photographer.