Apple to include system-wide, artificial intelligence-powered voice control in iOS 5?

TechCrunch has been told that Apple will be integrating system-wide voice control technology into iOS 5 derived from their purchase of Siri last year. Apple is reportedly putting the finishing touches on the feature which will be demoed at WWDC in June.

A year ago, Apple bought Siri, a virtual personal assistant startup that had released a very cool iPhone app. The Siri team and technology are now said to be a big part of iOS 5.

The use of Siri's artificial intelligence and assistance technology is said to be deeply integrated into the OS for all the different services offered. And the team is now putting the finishing touches on the elements that will be demoed at WWDC, we hear. This tech may also be opened to developers for use in third-party apps - though that information isn't quite as concrete.

Apple introduced a very basic VoiceControl feature in iOS 3 a couple of years ago, but it doesn't seem to enjoy widespread use (I hardly ever use it, do you?). The coolest thing you can do is play a song or make a call using your voice -- which is nice -- but you can't perform system-wide voice commands like launching an app or carry out a task such as adding a new calendar event. By contrast, Android gained far more integrated, far more useful voice control over a year ago.

We've all hoped for better voice integration in iOS for a while now, so this is great news if it turns out to be true. Would you use a SIRI-powered voice control system in iOS?


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Andrew Wray

Andrew Wray is a Salt Lake City, Utah based writer who focuses on news, how-tos, and jailbreak. Andrew also enjoys running, spending time with his daughter, and jamming out on his guitar. He works in a management position for Unisys Technical Services, a subsidiary of Unisys Corporation.

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Reader comments

Apple to include system-wide, artificial intelligence-powered voice control in iOS 5?


Thus far, the best use for the existing iPhone voice control is to get a good laugh. My family and I joke over how unreliable it is. "Play Beyonce's Single Ladies" yeilds phone calls to random contacts. What a mess! But, Siri is much more reliable, and could be quite useful.

I happen to use Voice Control a lot, but I do know that most of my friends do not. I think it'd be more handy for notification management.

Voice is overrated. 9 times out 10 I am in a location I don't want people to hear who I am dialing or what I am listing to. Of any applications, I can see it being semi-useful when used while driving (if your car doesn't already have voice activated commands).

I want integrated speech to text, for when I'm too lazy to type :P
But yes, I feel weird talking to my phone in public.

I think I'd use it the most while driving. That would be extremely valuable and an underrated safety feature

I never used Siri, so i'm not sure how "responsive" it is in terms of understanding normal speach (not having to annunciate each word like a robot), but this would be useful while driving, eating messy finger foods, or practically anything else that requires both hands. It has promise, but i'm not sure i want this to be the big sell of the new iOS.

DJ - speaking of driving, I think the Siri technology could lead to much deeper iOS integration in the automotive market. Over 90% of all autos sold in the U.S. have iPod integration already. Looking down the road (pun intended) Apple could integrate AI-assisted voice control into that, or even license the technology to auto makers.
I think 20 years from now, iPod / iPhone / iPad will be essentially free. Apple will need to develop media delivery and storage like cloud-based iTunes, and services like AI voice assist. That requires a major shift in Apple's business model, but Apple has been there and done that already. Very successfully.

Voice "command" on Iphone is a complete joke. You can't trust it at all. Dial a number, and a song plays. Play a song, and the phone starts ringing. I cannot get it to work in my truck, which it seems would be the logical place you would want it. I turn off the radio, turn off the A/C, speak as clear as I can, and it STILL gets it wrong. Useless. As to making it control even more of the phone seems equally as useless unless it works! My old BB Bold have a speach learning set-up you had to go through. You had to say letters and numbers and the phone "learned" your voice. And, IT WORKED!!

The only thing I ever use it for is "what time is it," so I don't have to pull my phone out of my pocket.

Don't use it, too unreliable. Everytime I ask "what time is it?" it starts calling my boss!! even if I put on an American accent.

I never use the voice control now but would love to see Siri integrated. I could see that being very useful.

Yup. Voice control is one of the biggest advantage of ANdroid. I'm surprised it doesn't get brought up much on all the Android vs. iOS shouting matches.
It's especially handy while driving. I voice text all the time on my Evo. I also use it for mapping and navigation.

It just doesn't really work. Too many dialects, too much background noise, too many variables in speech for today's computers. Dragon dictation is the best I've seen but it's still got a way to go yet.

I have the Siri app but never use it, and it's ok. What would be great is to use this or any other tech to be able to have speech to text/email/twit capability especially for driving/hand free use or just general laziness.


I only use it to call a few people, and it always functions perfectly for me. But, I've never tried it with anything else, so I haven't experience the unreliability that others have. I really don't mind people hearing me say "Call Dave" anymore. If people can't figure out by now that I'm using voice control, then it's they who should really be embarrassed.
And the way young people today speed-mumble without moving their mouths, like beginner ventriloquists... I'm not surprised it's a problem for so many.

Good to hear that. Apple is lagging behind Android on the voice control. Glad that it is finally doing something.

Maybe if you're driving, but if you can just perform the task like normal people, I don't believe you need to use voice control. Oh, unless you are trying to impress friends at a party, then yes! Cause aren't we all? :D

Maybe I'm abnormal, but I use Voice Control daily to make phone calls while walking in cold weather and to play music. I've also NEVER had it misunderstand me.

I use it regularly while driving. Not reliable for song playback but it calls the right names 98% of the time for me. If it was rolled out more broadly in the operating system and had an easier way to activate it than holding down the button I would use it all the time.

I use voice control to make phone calls when I'm riding on my motorcycle. I get a reliability of 3/10 but keeps me going. I'd love for it to be more reliable. Hopefully, Siri quickly learns my Indian accent :)

Has anyone not heard of Voice Activator. It's a jailbreak add-on that goes along with Voice Control. Google it if your iPhone is already jailbroken. You can launch apps, websites, do commands such as turn Bluetooth On, Wifi Off. Ever since this jailbreak tweak I've used my Voice Control more often. But I do agree it needs a well deserve upgrade.

I am playing around with the voicecontrol on itouch quite a bit as my father is losing his vision and is nervous about new technology. It works very well and is useful in combination with any headset that has a push button as holding that in activates voice over, so no need to pull out the iphone when jogging, biking or driving. But it is definitely of limited use at this point. being able to dictate emails, have them reread and also emailed to the correct address all by voice command is really what is needed for the visually impaired. So I'm really crossing my fingers here as the potential is amazing.