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A more human Siri will become part of the family

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The launch of iOS 11 brings with it a new iteration of AI helper Siri.

While not packed with headline-grabbing new functionality, Apple’s decision to give the assistant a more human voice could finally see users accept and begin fully utilising the bot.

Dr Alex Acero, who leads the Siri voice team at Apple, explained to Wired that he knew Siri was heading in the right direction after watching Spike Jonze’s chatbot satire Her, not once but twice.

First Acero watched the film like normal, but the second time he shut his eyes, enabling him to focus on what made Scarlett Johansson’s AI character Samantha so special.

Acero’s realisation wasn’t exactly startling.

“It is natural. It was not robotic,” he told Wired.

Obviously, making AI sound human is much easier in a motion picture than it is to achieve in reality, but this is what Acero and his team has set its sights on achieving.

Apple’s acceptance into the connected home and car spaces will rely on people finally relating to the bot on a human level.

Since the introduction of iOS 10, Siri has made use of deep learning to enable a more natural voice, but Apple has gone a step further in iOS 11 by selecting an all-new female voice for Siri.

“We chose a new female voice talent with the goal of improving the naturalness, personality, and expressivity of Siri’s voice,” explained the Siri team on Apple’s machine learning blog.

“We evaluated hundreds of candidates before choosing the best one. Then, we recorded over 20 hours of speech and built a new text-to-speech (TTS) voice using the new deep learning based TTS technology.

“As a result, the new US English Siri voice sounds better than ever.”

You can read about exactly how Apple is working its magic on Siri on its blog, but the end result is a virtual assistant who sounds much more human.

You can hear the improvements for yourself below.

Rather than commanding a robot, new Siri will see users chatting to a person. Over time, Siri will almost certainly become more and more lifelike.

Siri is being pushed more front and centre with the release of iOS 11, and there’s no doubt Apple’s acceptance into the connected home and car spaces will rely on people finally relating to the bot on a human level.

Making some form of emotional connection with Siri, as apposed to rival AI assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa, could make it very difficult for users to jump ship. They wouldn’t simply be switching to another system, but leaving behind someone they had become attached to.

You’d never betray Siri by inviting another assistant into your home.