Apple recently began a research study designed to including under the “Utilities” category where it’s published.from study participants. Earlier this , the company launched a new iOS app called “Siri Speech Study” on the App Store, allowing participants who opted in to share their voice requests and other feedback with Apple. The app is available in several worldwide markets but does not register on the App Store’s charts,
According to data from Sensor Tower, the iOS app first launched on August 9 and was updated to a new version on August 18. It’s currently available in the U.S., Canada, Germany, France, , India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, and Taiwan — an indication of the study’s global reach. However, the app will not appear when searching the App Store by keyword or browsing the list of Apple’s published apps.
The Siri Speech Studylittle information about the study’s specific goals nor explains how someone could become a participant. Instead, it only provides a link to a reasonable standard license agreement and a screen where participants enter their I.D. number to get started.
Reached for comment, Apple told TechCrunch the app is only being used for Siri product improvements by offering participants to share feedback directly with Apple. The company also explained that people have to be invited to the study — there’s no way for consumers to sign up to join.
The app is only one of many ways Apple is working to improve Siri. In the past, Apple had tried to learn more about Siri’s mistakes by sending a small portion of consumers’ voice recordings to contractors for manual grading and review. But a whistleblower alerted media outlet The Guardian that the process had sometimes allowed them to listen in on confidential . Shortly after, Apple manually reviewed an opt-in process and brought in-house audio grading. This type of consumer continues but has a different aim than a research study.
Unlike this broader, more generalized data collection, a focus group-like study allows Apple to better understand Siri’s mistakes by combining the collected data with human feedback. With the Siri Speech Study app, Apple said that participants provide explicit feedback per-request. For instance, if Siri misheard a question,. If Siri was triggered when the user hadn’t said “Hey Siri,” that could be noted. Or if Siri on HomePod misidentified the speaker in a multi-person household, the participant could mention that, too.
Another differentiator is that none of the participants’with Apple. Instead, a list of the Siri requests they’ve made and then select which to send to Apple with their feedback. Apple also noted no user information is collected or used in the app except the by participants.
Their advanced capabilities are often a key selling point for Android devices. Apple understands that an intelligent virtual assistant that understands you is a competitive advantage. , the company scooped up ex-Google A.I. scientist Samy Bengio to help make Siri a stronger rival to . Meanwhile, in the home, Alexa-powered intelligent speakers dominate the U.S. landscape outside China. Apple’s HomePod has a long way to go to catch up.
But despite the rapid progress in voice-based computing in, virtual assistants can still have difficulty understanding certain types of speech. For example, earlier this , Apple said it would use a bank of audio clips from podcasts where users had stuttered to help it improve its understanding of this kind of speech pattern. Assistants can also stumble when multiple devices in a home are listening for from across several rooms. And assistants can mess up when trying to differentiate between family members’ voices or understand a child’s voice.
That Apple is running a Siri speech study isn’t necessarily new. The company has historically run evaluations and studies like this in some form. But it’s less common to find Apple’s studies published directly on the. In other words, there are still many avenues a speech study could pursue over time, even if these aren’t its current focus.
Though Apple could have published the app through the enterprise distribution process to keep it more under wraps, it chose to use its public marketplace. This closely follows the App Store’s rules, as the research study is not an internally-facing app meant only for Apple employees. Still, consumers will not likelythe app and be confused — the Siri Speech Study app is hidden from discovery. You have to have the app’s direct link to find it. (Good thing we’re nosy!)