Voice-activated virtual assistants are becoming an everyday part of our lives. While Amazon Alexa dominates the market, there are many others either in the works or already competing for our attention.
These are now being taken for granted by many people - so much so that Google's Home has added an option requiring kids to say 'please' when asking for something, to stop them getting into the habit of simply making demands. Therefore, it's easy to forget that voice-based assistants have actually been around for a while now on our smartphones, ever since Apple introduced Siri back in 2011.
In technological terms, this practically makes Siri a grandmother today, but she still has plenty of tricks. In particular, it's notable for the sheer amount of Easter eggs hidden in the responses, which means you can do a lot more than just ask for trivia answers and weather updates.
Here's a few fun ways you can mess with Siri to get an unusual response.
Get her mad
One of the best ways to get anyone mad is to forget their name, and Siri is no exception. Whatever you do, don't mix her up with Alexa or Microsoft's arch-rival Cortana - unless you want to be on the receiving end of her sarcastic wit. Annoying her with personal questions, flirting with her or trying to discuss politics will also lead to a less-than-friendly response.
Ask her to be creative
Did you know Siri is a talented poet? Well, perhaps 'talented' is a stretch, as by her own admission, she writes the "fourth-worst poetry in the universe", but she will offer a sarcastic haiku if you push her. She's also not a great comedian, as her range of knock-knock jokes leave much to be desired.
Test her pop-culture knowledge
There's a long list of film, TV and internet memes hidden away within Siri's answers. Ask her to explain the plot of Inception, for example, and she'll start explaining dreams within dreams, before claiming she fell asleep watching it. Star Trek, Game of Thrones and Batman are also among the topics she has strong feelings on. Incidentally, her favorite movie is apparently Blade Runner, because of its "very realistic and sensitive depiction of intelligent assistants".
If you're pondering the meaning of life, the universe and everything, Siri might also be a useful debate companion, pondering deep issues about the nature of reality, her own existence and the concept of love. Or she might just insist the answer is 42, depending on her mood.
Ask her for the impossible
If you really want to see Siri get mean, try asking her to divide by zero. She won't give you an answer, of course, but she will deliver a polite yet firm response explaining why it's impossible, and reminding you that you have no friends. Ouch.
The implications for artificial intelligence
While these Easter eggs may be good for a quick laugh, there is a real point behind them - it's (probably) not just the result of engineers at Apple HQ getting bored. When it comes to developing artificial intelligences that are capable of holding effective conversations with people, being able to appear as human as possible is essential.
This doesn't necessarily mean demonstrating a sense of humor or being able to write poetry on demand, but it does mean interpreting what's being asked correctly - even if casual or unclear language is used - assessing the type of query, and being able to select the most appropriate response, whether this is a joke or a serious answer.
With machine learning technologies becoming increasingly powerful, seemingly-silly diversions like Siri's Easter eggs can help AI assistants learn more about human interactions and improve their responses for the next generation of technology.
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