As rumored, Apple’s doing some all-new voice-control AI stuff in iOS 5. It’s called Siri, which is the name of the app Apple bought for $200 million a couple years ago. Basically, you ask Siri questions out loud in plain english, and Siri makes sense of what you’re asking and presents you with results and actions. Siri launches with a long press of the home button, just like Voice Control of yore, but after that the options are fairly endless. “Do I have a meeting Friday at noon?” Siri checks the calendar and responds out loud. “What time is it in Paris?” Siri shows you a world clock. “Set my alarm for…” you get the idea. The verbal response of Siri allows it to clarify if it understands what you’re saying, and in turn perform some pretty complicated actions, like setting up a meeting with Phil Schiller for Friday at noon. Like with the original version of the app, Siri remembers the context of what you’ve been asking, so actions can build on each other. You can also ask Siri to look things up on Wikipedia for you, and Siri can use Wolfram Alpha to do more complicated calculations. Siri’s list of capabilities is near endless, including asking it to play genres of music for you, look up something on maps, or what the weather is. Our favorite question? “Siri, who are you?” Siri responds: “I am your humble personal assistant.”
In addition to the Siri assistant, Apple is using its new voice recognition chops to offer a “beta” version of speech-to-text dictation functionality. Initial languages include English, French, and German. Apple plans to offer more languages and more Siri services over time. The bad news? All this great stuff is only available for the iPhone 4S — Apple had to do something to force an upgrade! In all seriousness, some of this AI functionality can be incredibly processor intensive, so Siri might be leaning on the A5 chip quite heavily. Google’s voice dictation capabilities rely on uploading your speech to the cloud, where a server somewhere does the processing work. We’ll be digging into Siri in the coming days and weeks, so stay tuned. There’s a gallery of Siri in action after the break.