How Siri became an autistic boy's best friend

How to use Siri for iPhone and iPad: The ultimate guide
How to use Siri for iPhone and iPad: The ultimate guide

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

Rene Ritchie
Contributor

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

7 Comments
  • Meh, this issue was already explored in the Big Bang Theory. Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • Rene, thanks for posting this. Clearly, I seem to have missed an episode of Big Bang Theory but do have an autistic son. While he's 18, I can identify with what this mother is talking about. As parents, we all need outlets for our children to express themselves that's safe. My son lives to post gaming videos on YouTube and has 500 followers. However, the comments are sometimes less than encouraging. I guess in this case the things we create are better than the species that created them.
  • I have a cousin that is severely autistic, to where I don't believe even Siri can make a meaningful connection. I've never watched Big Bang theory, and don't care to. It is nice to see the opportunities various technologies, especially Apple technology (I'm a fan, and a male, but not a full on fanboy yet), and even technologies from Google, Microsoft, and all others working on this type of thing can provide to those who are less abled then the majority of people on the street. Apple happens to promote their service for this purpose, others may or may not, but either way the competition and technological advancements are welcome to those who have come to rely on and are just now beginning to discover their potential to help everyone communicate and function on a more level playing field. Sent from the iMore App
  • the airplane one doesn't work. I tried it and have a screen cap.
  • It is awesome that Siri interfaces with him so well. I just hope they improve speech training for Siri. While I don't have a speech impediment (like the guy on Big Bang Theory did), I do have an accent, and Siri has a lot of trouble sometimes.
  • I feel you on that one. Most infuriating. Sent from the iMore App
  • Thanks for the post. The NY Times article was insightful. Never looked at Siri from Gus' or any kid's point of view. Just finished watching the Jony Ives interview and like he said Apple is committed to giving people tools that help make their lives simpler, in my words. Most of us are not techies or power users or even care about Retina 5k even though we like it. We care that a product works and that it is well made. As the author remarked Siri's foibles while criticized by its competitors in her particular case is a 'blessing' to her son. I'm sure some Android faithful will read this and rant but so what. As yet no one quite does it like Apple. Sent from the iMore App