Apple recently bought a British startup called VocalIQ that's been working on the future of artificial intelligence, an acquisition that's expected to make Siri smarter, according to a report in The Financial Times.
A research project that the team behind VocalIQ worked on last year details the level of ambition Apple likely has for improving its digital assistant.
The technology could make Siri, which is currently found on the Apple Watch, iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch, and, later this year, will come on the new version of the Apple TV, not only understand you better, but have conversations with you like an actual human being.
VocalIQ was created by a team of European researchers at Cambridge who also worked on something called the Parlance Project, which "aims to design and build mobile applications that approach human performance in conversational interaction."
Think J.A.R.V.I.S., Iron Man's futuristic AI computer, but in the real world.
The Parlance Project released an Android app in December 2014 called Speak&Eat, which it called "the first truly conversational app for finding restaurants." It only works in San Francisco, but it demonstrates just how much smarter and more contextually aware VocalIQ's technology is compared to Siri.
Here are a few of the questions you can ask the app, all of which Siri on an iPhone is currently unable to answer:
"I would like a French restaurant in the center of town." The app will have likely already learned what town you're in (and if not, it will ask you), and perform the search.
"Are there any Italian restaurants in the north of town?" This example highlights VocalIQ's contextual awareness — it understands normal phrasing like a human, while Siri cannot currently perform such a search.
"Is there anything in the cheap price range?" This kind of question would be asked during a conversation when you're already being a shown a restaurant you might want to visit. Currently, Siri on an iPhone can't keep a conversation going (the new Apple TV will be able to search like this, but won't come out until later this year) so there is no way to drill into the details of a restaurant's menu like this.
"What's the address?" It sounds so simple, but Siri can't answer this kind of question in any context. "The" would have to be the name of what you were looking for, but with VocalIQ, the computer would remember what you had asked it earlier and insert the name in its query for you.
Here's a video of someone talking with the app, which will make you wish Siri were this smart today: