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Hey, Siri: you’re embarrassing

Use Siri in public, and you look like a tit. It’s that simple.

On a recent episode of the Mac Power Users podcast, Internet tech guru Clayton Morris explained how he never sees people using Apple’s personal assistant in public. And I happen to agree with him. In fact, the more I think about it, I don’t think I’ve ever┬áseen anyone use Siri in public.

And I’ll add myself to that list. You see, Siri is, in my mind, an inherently private piece of tech. As useful as it can be, we don’t yet live in a society that is forgiving of people talking to inanimate objects. Asking your phone, iPad or watch what the weather’s going to be like tomorrow feels silly enough when done in private, let alone on a packed train. I did it once and everyone around me began shuffling uncomfortably in their seats and drawing their personal belongings closer to their chests.

Despite this, machine learning is a hot topic in the tech press. There are some truly daft arguments surrounding what is deemed to be the lead technology in this field – be it Amazon’s Echo or our friend Siri – and the usual exclamation from the iMore camp that such tech hypothesising is ‘hilarious’ (yes, another frankly bizarre piece of over-egging-the-pudding from a certain Rene Ritchie). But, in truth, it is far too early to predict anything.

Siri and Echo are the stuff of Sci-Fi films gone by; the ability to walk into a room, shout “lights!” and marvel as the room brightens without any physical intervention, the ease with which we can set timers using purely our vocal chords and the frankly brilliant way we can ask our phones to play a bit of Michael Jackson and instantly hear a random playlist from the King of Pop belt out of the tiny speakers. It’s wonderful. But it is still all a bit silly and rather luxurious. No one ‘needs’ a digital personal assistant, after all.

The true benefit of this stuff is, in my opinion, rather further away than some people perhaps hope. The world is yet to adopt digital personal assistants en masse and such technology will need to enjoy the same kind of social penetration smartphones spent years acquiring if we’re to find ourselves truly in some kind of Sci-Fi fantasy land. That takes time. A lot of time.

For now, Siri remains a convenience that I use occasionally. I’ll never use it in public, because it is embarrassing and I feel like a tit doing so. I don’t like feeling like a tit.

What happens next is anyone’s guess, but if you’re expecting something epic on the machine learning front at this month’s WWDC, prepare to be disappointed.

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