Siri, HomePod, and a bit of back and forth

One of my favorite habits is strolling downstairs in the morning, and asking Siri to play some music while I make coffee, do my morning routine.

Yesterday, I asked Siri to play one of my favorite albums, Keith Jarrett’s The Köln Concert. It’s a terrific morning album and, even though it came out back in 1975, it sounds terrific on HomePod. It’s all about the production.

The problem here is getting Siri to play this album. I started with:

Hey Siri, play the Keith Jarrett album The Köln Concert.

Siri’s response:

Sorry, I couldn’t find Keith Jarrett.

But if I say:

Hey Siri, play Keith Jarrett

Siri does her magic and plays all manner of Keith Jarrett.

Now, you might think this is a complaint about Siri’s ability to parse my spoken words. Not at all. I find Siri to be excellent at translating spoken word to text.

Instead, this is about Siri taking the next leap towards understanding and collaboration. If I asked a friend to play Keith Jarrett’s The Köln Concert and my friend did not understand what I meant, there’d be a couple of important points of interaction:

  • Did my friend know Keith Jarrett?
  • Did they understand the reference to the album The Köln Concert?
  • Does my friend have access to that album?

If it was a friend, I could follow up with some of these questions, and my friend could ask me questions right back. Maybe something like:

  • Hey friend, play the Keith Jarrett album The Köln Concert.
  • Sorry, I can’t do that.
  • Why not?
  • I know who Keith Jarrett is, but I don’t understand The Köln Concert.
  • Let me spell that out for you: K-O-L-N C-O-N-C-E-R-T.
  • Did you mean, The Köln Concert?
  • Yup, that’s the one. Go ahead and play it.

Spelling aside, I see the basic ability to go back and forth as a critical next step for Siri and, especially for HomePod Siri. And I think homing in on what music you want to play is a perfect sandbox for Siri to play and learn in.

The Apple Music domain is relatively limited. Typically, you ask for a song, an album, or an artist. The back and forth to help you home in on the music you’re seeking is relatively simple. I don’t mean to minimize the effort involved in taking that next step. Programming is hard, especially when you are trying to build something that millions of people will use.

But this might be an excellent place to start. And a bit of back and forth to help find a specific piece of music would, in my mind, greatly enhance the HomePod experience.