It is an early morning of the just-arrived winter. People I can see on the street from my window wear heavy coats, but it’s unclear how cold it is. I can open the window and let my natural skin sensors grab an approximate measurement, but I realize a much more accurate value can be obtained by pressing a button. “Siri, what’s the temperature outside?” I ask, with a Brazilian accent that most Americans think is Russian. “Brr! It is 32 degrees outside,” answers the piece of rectangular glass I hold. It is a female voice, with an accent of her own. Artificial. That’s probably how I would describe it.
The application, whose name is an acronym for Speech Integration and Recognition Interface, has encountered a wave of sarcastic, philosophical, flirtatious and mundane questions, since it was made available to certain Apple iOS devices in October 2011. Countless jokes featuring Siri made their way through the nodes of the social-media graph, and books about her witty personality have been printed. But if you could take Siri in a trip through time to when your grandmother was 10 (fear not, the time travel paradox involves your grandfather), she would definitely qualify your talking device as “magic.” Perhaps she would even call Siri intelligent.