When it comes to the iPhone 4S's voice-controlled personal assistant Siri, you'd better be careful what you ask for.
According to the Sun, Charlie Le Quesne, 12, learned that lesson the hard way this week when he picked up a display model of the iPhone 4S at a store and asked, "How many people are there in the world?" Siri's answer: "Shut the f*** up, you ugly t***," the Sun reports.
"I thought I must be hearing things," Le Quesne's mother told the Sun. But when they asked again "the same four-letter stuff blared out."
CNET's Chris Matyszczyk offered a tongue-in-cheek explanation for the outburst: that Siri had lost patience answering mundane questions and had "finally lost her temper."
According to the store's managers, however, Siri may have been tricked by a group of pranksters into thinking the rude phrase was in fact the name of its owner. Apparently, this can be done in the set-up instructions. Why Siri would answer the question of how many people are in the world with the phone owner's name, however, is another question.
Of course we already knew that Siri has a somewhat dark sense of humor. S*** That Siri Says is a whole blog devoted to the A.I.'s amusing answers to straight-forward questions and straight answers to strange questions. When one iPhone owner told Siri, "I need to bury a body," she responded with a list of possibilities that included reservoirs, metal foundries, mines, dumps and swamps. While Siri's answers might verge on snarky at times (try asking it to marry you), they stay clear of R-rated territory. Ask it to "talk dirty to me," and Siri replies, "Humus. Compost. Pumice. Silt. Gravel."
Yet Siri has been no stranger to controversy since the iPhone 4S launched in October. In November, The Huffington Post reported that Siri had difficulty understanding non-English accents, leading some to wonder if Siri was racist. The personal assistant has also been accused of being sexist: writer Amanda Marcotte wrote in a post for Forbes that Siri "behaves much like a retrograde male fantasy of the ever-compliant secretary: discreet, understanding, willing to roll with any demand a man might come up with, teasingly accepting of dirty jokes. Oh yeah, and mainly indifferent to the needs of women."
In addition, it was discovered that Siri showed an apparent preference for pro-life pregnancy centers over clinics that provided abortions. Although at the time an Apple spokesperson told The New York Times, "These are not intentional omissions meant to offend anyone. It simply means that as we bring Siri from beta to a final product, we find places where we can do better, and we will in the coming weeks."
To find out more about how Siri composes its answers, check out SmartPlanet's step-by-step explanation here.
What are the strangest things you've heard Siri say? Let us know below.