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Siri And Malkovich: Does The New Apple Ad Live Up To The Hype?

Posted: 05/25/2012 5:04 pm

Siri, the spritely iPhone 4S assistant, has won herself a lot of celebrity friends, if Apple's new television advertisements are any indication. Aerial snake wrangler (and noted gazpacho chef) Samuel L. Jackson appeared in a commercial with Siri, followed shortly thereafter by a spot featuring actress and human-embodiment-of-cake-frosting Zooey Deschanel. Now, actor, director and fashion designer(!) John Malkovich has become the latest famous person to hang with Siri, firing off one-word commands at his iPhone whilst lounging in a spacious room that has many leather-bound books and that, by all appearances, would seem to smell of rich, rich mahogany.

As we have with previous Siri commercials, we thought we'd put Siri to the test and try to recreate the advertisement for ourselves, just to see how well Siri works in real life. The process is simple: Everything John Malkovich says to Siri, I say to Siri on my own iPhone 4S here at The Huffington Post offices. Every take you see is a first take, because what's the point of a voice assistant if you have to say something twice?

In our tests, we're looking at how fast Siri goes, how accurately Siri performs, and how well Siri can understand me. Because here's the thing: Not only are the Siri commercials the subject of two class action suits -- both of which claim that Apple over-promises on Siri's capabilities in its advertisements -- now we have an article in Fortune quoting a former Apple employee saying that Steve Jobs "would have lost his mind" over Siri and that current Apple execs are "embarrassed" by the little assistant's performance.

Aw, Apple execs! Stop being so hard on yourselves! Siri is a pretty good start, and it's really talented at setting alarms! Also, even though people aren't really using it that often, its very existence does seem to make people happy.

Seriously, though, Siri has indeed successfully entered the zeitgeist, and most people don't seem to mind Siri's so-called shortcomings: In a December survey by ChangeWave, a full 50 percent of iPhone 4S buyers said their favorite thing about their new smartphones was Siri.

But back to the ad, and the supposedly "embarrassing" Siri. Below, I test out Siri (and my John Malkovich "impression"). The result: Siri does well with the one-word commands. The voice assistant makes one mistake -- it hears "true" when I say "joke" -- but otherwise performance is fast and accurate.

Granted, I'm only saying one word at a time, so it's harder for voice recognition to mess up. Siri definitely had much more trouble with the more sophisticated commands from the infamous "Rock God" commercial when we tried that out a couple of months ago.

Overall, however, Siri passes this test. See the full play-by-play below, with a special Malkovich-ian treat at the end of the video:

 

Follow Jason Gilbert on Twitter: www.twitter.com/gilbertjasono

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