Apple's Siri wrong 38 percent of the time in test

In a test by Piper Jaffray on a busy Minneapolis street, Siri's voice tech managed to perform searches correctly 62 percent of the time. That compares with 86 percent for typed Google searches.

"Yo, Siri. Will you be better than Google one day?" Apple Screenshot: Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Life can't be easy if you're Siri.

Apple's factota has to rely on your voice, regardless of whether you're drunk or sober, have a characteristically difficult regional accent or shriek when you're stressed.

So when redoubtable analysts at Piper Jaffray decided to pit her against venerable Google searches done via keyboard, this was a little like asking Adele to appear in a cage match with Chuck Norris.

Still, she bravely went out into busy Minneapolis streets -- there are some -- and tried to do her best.

Indeed, Fortune reports that, despite all the distractions of people wearing purple, she managed to perform 62 percent of searches correctly.

She even improved to 68 percent when asked questions in a peaceful room.

There will be those who will offer snorts of derision at such apparent imperfection. This suggests, they will say, that she just can't be relied upon -- unlike the infallibility that is Google.

And yet, in this very same test, Google only managed an 86 percent success rate. Yes, even when you key in your query, the almightiness that is Google gets it wrong 14 percent of the time.

Indeed, those who can no more live without Siri than they can without the cheeseburger will be further heartened that she actually understood 83 percent of the questions on the noisy street and 89 percent in silent conditions. She just can't always get hold of the answers.

She did, it seems, have problems with ambiguously worded questions, such as "Where is Elvis buried?" Sadly, she was convinced she needed to find someone called Elvis Buried.

Perhaps even more sadly, when told that her holder wanted to go to Lake Superior, she offered the rather inferior suggestion of directing him to Lake Superior X-Ray.

Siri has enjoyed her public troubles. Last month, she dared to suggest that Nokia's Lumia 900 was better than her own iPhone 4S. (She was tweaked a little after that.)

However, as Steve Wozniak himself pointed out with passion recently (video embedded), sometimes Siri needs to get together with Wolfram Alpha more than the 14 percent of the time she currently does. Indeed, at the moment, she is 60 percent reliant on big brother Google.

She surely needs a more intelligent backroom team to help her approach perfection. As Woz saw fit to declaim, the poor woman has been dumbed down.

Piper Jaffray's Gene Munster, in a note to his clients offering these results, reportedly declared: "With the iOS 6 release in the fall, we expect Siri to improve meaningfully while reducing its reliance on Google from 60% to 48%."

Siri will soon be embracing such diverse sources as the very fine Yahoo Sports, Rotten Tomatoes, Fandango and Open Table.

The more she learns of the world, the more she'll be able to help those who just can't be bothered to type any more.

In the end, you see, what humanity really wants is simply to bark out its needs and have them answered immediately.

Correction, July 2 at 5:35 a.m. PT: This story inadvertently mentioned Google voice search in addition to typed Google search. In the Piper Jaffray test, the Google searches were done only by typing.

 

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