Editing your Siri query

John Gruber, via Daring Fireball:

Pichai’s example of a query Google Assistant can handle but which “other assistants” cannot was asking “What is Draymond Green’s jersey number?” I tried that query in the Google app on my iPhone. Got the right answer: 23. I tried with Alexa on my Echo, and got the response “Hmm. I can’t find the answer to the question I heard.” I tried with Siri, and I got this.

Follow John’s link and you’ll see a typical Siri response to a misunderstood query. Not useful, clearly a misunderstanding.

I tried the same thing:

Siri, what is Draymont Green’s jersey number

Note that I tried several times before I got even close to the right spelling of Draymond Green’s name (note the “d” instead of a “t”). Without the correct spelling, Siri is lost.

First things first, this is a context problem. If Siri knew I was a Golden State Warriors fan and had the ability to maintain that sort of context, Siri could resolve this. Alternatively, if Siri had an ongoing context of people in the news, famous people, or (knowing I asked for a jersey number) sports figures who played in games last night, Siri would be able to pick up on what I meant by my query.

Is this detailed contextual awareness coming? Watching the Google I/O keynote, you have a sense that this deep contextual model is a central part of Google’s new announcements. In addition, Google makes their assistant available to developers via an API. Apple, on the other hand, has a long tradition of keeping their R&D cards close to the vest. It’ll be very interesting to hear what Apple has to say about Siri and contextual awareness at WWDC.

OK, back to the Draymond Green jersey problem. Like John Gruber, try as I might, I could not get Siri to understand the name Draymond Green. The key was to edit my query.

Once Siri responded to the unintelligible Draymont (with a “t”) Green query, I dragged down on my screen to reveal the original query. I then tapped on the query to edit it, changed the “t” to a “d” and, lo and behold, Siri responded with:

Draymond Green’s jersey number is 23

Siri followed that with a picture and some stats, just what you’d expect.

Interestingly, you can edit the last Siri query, and you drag down to see previous queries, but you can only edit the last query.

Big thanks and a giant hat tip to Rob Davey for his help working through the logic here.

  • Brandon Pamplin

    Try as I might, I can’t get Siri to NOT understand me for this query (or any of the other more outrageous NFL/NBA names there are). She gets it 100% of the time.

    As a test, I had OS X’s say command say “What is Draymond Green’s jersey number?”. Siri heard it and correctly answered “23”. If you follow that up with “where was he born?”, you get the correct answer, too. If you say “how tall is he?” after that, you’ll also get the answer.

    Siri has been contextually aware (in a conversational way) for a few years. It seems like the limit might be 3 levels at this point, though.

    • collider

      I got the exact same thing. I agree this is a voice recognition problem, not a context thing. Dramond is not a common name, and I’m sure the pronunciation is all over the map. At least for me, I’ve seen Siri vastly improving over time. Maybe folks don’t see it because Apple doesn’t flaunt each and every update and it just quietly starts working.

  • michaels99

    Is it a context problem or is it simply a voice recognition problem? Several people on Twitter said Siri understood them asking the same question. Siri couldn’t understand me but my accent is all over the place. Why should Siri need to know anything about your baseball preferences in order to understand that particular question? It may help but if it can’t transcribe your voice properly it probably won’t. I should add, that Siri nearly always understands me and has been improving steadily in recent times.

    As an aside, I really do feel people are jumping on an anti Apple band wagon these days, some of the complaints I’m hearing are getting ridiculous. Edge cases being taken to represent larger scale issues that aren’t really there, or at least, are no where near as serious as are being made out.

  • Arnold Ziffel

    Of all the things going on in the world, Draymont [sic] Green’s jersey number is beyond ridiculously trivial.

  • ScooterComputer

    For me, who uses Siri a lot to dictate messages while driving, the “correction problem” IS the bigger problem. As mentioned, once Siri get the “correct” query, it will often get the correct result. However, in your example, you had to MANUALLY correct the query. THAT is the problem with voice interaction. If you ended up having to take your iPhone in hand, is the most efficient course of action fixing Siri’s misunderstanding or simply undertaking the search yourself? While dictating messages to Siri, say while driving, performing this manual intervention is simply not possible (or, rather, is ill advised). You can request Siri to “change” the message, but that requires going back and COMPLETELY re-dictating the entire message. (And the interface sometimes hangs after two or three “changes”.) Plus, Siri often gets stuck on stupid, simply mishearing the same word OVER AND OVER AND OVER. Instead, nicer would be to have the ability to simply modify one or two words. There should be some form of command to “correct” Siri on the fly. “Siri, you misheard ‘Draymond’.” or “Siri, correct ‘Aruba is’ to Arooga’s’.” (a restaurant in my contacts list, so Siri -should- “know” it).

    The lack of that interactive “mode” in Siri -IS- the problem, more than merely not getting to the information. It shows two things: one, Siri isn’t really that powerful, her “interactivity” is mostly smoke and mirrors. That’s a significant limitation, and will be an ongoing problem for Apple. Second, yet again Apple’s hubris has gotten the best of them; instead of designing Siri with the foundation of a learning/correctable system, it has been designed as a presumed faultless, perfect system. The general use case is that Siri always interprets accurately, and if not, the user bears a significant burden to “change” the query rather than “correct” Siri, with correction requiring manual intervention contradicting the entire point of a voice interface.

    In this case, by saying “Siri, you misheard Draymond Green”, it might should kick off an interactive correction process: “I’m sorry, could you say it again?” “Draymond Green” “Is Draymont Green correct?” “No.” “Could you provider me more information about ?” “Draymond Green is a basketball player for the Golden State Warriors.” “OK, I have found Draymond Green. His jersey number is 23.” Sure, that would be longer, but the hope should be that Siri is actually LEARNING from the exchange, learning how to better “hear” you as well as learning how to parse requests. In the end, with many/most of the original Siri devs having jumped ship, I have a sinking feeling Apple is about to find themselves (at least) a generation behind their competition with a fundamentally crippled platform.

    • ScooterComputer

      For the record, I had about a 50/50 success rate with Siri understanding Draymond vs Draymont. What was odd, is it would flip back and forth. So, Siri really doesn’t have a “clue” that Draymond Green is a “thing” (a person). That’s bad. Also, every query I did ultimately came back only with a Wikipedia article about “Jersey”. And, getting back to my point about the “interactivity”, each time Siri would come to a point where she was no longer listening, so I could not interactively correct or even continue querying. I had to start all over with “Hey Siri” (which is really also rather broken over Bluetooth, causing breaking pauses that disrupt the UX. (I’m hard of hearing, must use a Bluetooth headset to hear.))

      EDIT: OK, that 50/50 what waaaay too optimistic. Siri’s just all over the map “I couldn’t find any matching places.” Disheartening.

      • Brandon Pamplin

        I can’t, under any circumstance (except specifically ending the name with a hard T) get Siri to hear “Draymont” instead of “Draymond”. Maybe people aren’t pronouncing his name correctly (and by correctly, I mean the way that Siri pronounces it, which is correct).

        I’ve also been unable to get anything related to Jersey to show up as a result. I did specifically mess up his name once and got the “Here’s what I found on the web” response, but even then, Bing had corrected it to “Draymond Green” and the first result included that his jersey number was 23.

        Another thought might be that the people having the most trouble with this are those who don’t use Siri often. Siri does learn (she learns voice patters, which Apple stubbornly stores only on device). The more that you use Siri, the better she becomes at understanding your voice, accent, and speech patterns.

  • Jacob Varghese

    Putting voice dictation issues aside, I think inherently this is an area where a company with search in their DNA (Google) would perform better. Apple hasn’t made sufficient progress with Siri, but the former Siri team left to produce some nice advances in the space. This makes me think that Apple isn’t fostering software innovation.