I have been testing out Siri, the new “artificially intelligent” personal assistant of Apple iPhone 4S for today, after I got hold of the handset in the morning. Here in Finland at least Siri falls into that irritating middle category of apps/services that obviously show so much promise that you’d love to use them, yet fail so often that it mostly makes no practical sense. The two main problems over here are language and location issues: as Siri currently only agrees to understand (US) English, it is rather difficult to ask it to carry out even simple tasks in a context surrounded by Finnish personal and place names. Siri also does not accept questions of places or businesses outside of the US, making its most obvious use — asking for directions while on the go — here totally irrelevant. Yet, I managed to send out a couple of urgent text messages by asking Siri for it while on the run, but even there the street noises and messy/limited online access broke the process so many times that I could have achieved the same with much less hassle through keyboard. But: if you are really running from place to place, stopping to access a keyboard is not always an option.
Currently Siri is mostly good for fun, general knowledge demos in quiet indoor, solid WiFi conditions. But in the future it is more than likely that natural conversational agents will really become one of our major interface paradigms. Discussion style interactions are so convenient and convincing when they actually do manage to work.