How Siri became an autistic boy's best friend

For Gus, Siri is more than just a virtual assistant, more than just a sequential inference engine that listens to him and answers his questions. Gus is autistic, and Siri has become something akin to his friend. The New York Times:

It all began simply enough. I'd just read one of those ubiquitous Internet lists called "21 Things You Didn't Know Your iPhone Could Do." One of them was this: I could ask Siri, "What planes are above me right now?" and Siri would bark back, "Checking my sources." Almost instantly there was a list of actual flights — numbers, altitudes, angles — above my head.

I happened to be doing this when Gus was nearby. "Why would anyone need to know what planes are flying above your head?" I muttered. Gus replied without looking up: "So you know who you're waving at, Mommy."

Gus had never noticed Siri before, but when he discovered there was someone who would not just find information on his various obsessions (trains, planes, buses, escalators and, of course, anything related to weather) but actually semi-discuss these subjects tirelessly, he was hooked. And I was grateful. Now, when my head was about to explode if I had to have another conversation about the chance of tornadoes in Kansas City, Mo., I could reply brightly: "Hey! Why don't you ask Siri?"

When Apple debuted Siri, the introduction video ended with a blind woman using it to send and receive text messages. Right from the start Apple positioned Siri as not just a cool new feature but an assistive, inclusive technology that could make the iPhone more accessible to even more people.

Anecdotally, when my very young godkids got their iPod touches with Siri, they spoke to it like it was a friend as well. Before they could read or write, they could use Siri to send and receive messages, to title movies, to get answers to their questions, and more.

With iOS 8, Siri now streams voice-to-text so you no longer have to wait until you're finished to see what, if anything, resolves. It makes it an even more conversational experience. Siri will also serve as the primary interface for HomeKit when Apple's home automation technology starts rolling out, and for the Apple Watch when it debuts next year.

You can read the rest of Gus' remarkable story via the link below, and learn more about Siri via our ultimate guide.

Source: New York Times