Apple is reportedly planning to use language models to make Siri smarter in iOS 18. This would allow the virtual assistant to help users automate complex, multi-step tasks with voice-based commands.
Apple’s Siri to take on Google Assistant and Alexa with multi-step automation capabilities
As reported by The Information, Siri could be used to take a series of five photos, turn them into a GIF, and send the resulting GIF to a friend. This is currently possible with the Shortcuts app, but it would require the user to manually set up the shortcut. With language models, the virtual assistant could be able to understand the user’s intent and automate the task without any additional setup.
It is likely that Siri’s integration with Shortcuts will also be deepened in iOS 18. Shortcuts have become a key part of the iPhone operating system and can be used for some powerful automated actions. Apple maintains a gallery of Shortcut options for everything from removing backgrounds from images to creating chore lists.
Apple reportedly aims to release the new Siri capabilities as part of the iPhone’s operating system next year. Apple’s competitor Google is also working to upgrade Google Assistant with language model software able to handle more complex tasks.
Apple’s Siri personal assistant has long been criticized for being notably behind voice assistants from other companies like Google and Alexa. This is primarily due to Apple’s focus on security and privacy. Many Siri tasks are performed on-device rather than through a cloud server. This means that Apple has to find a balance between privacy and functionality with the adoption of language models.
The iOS 17 update that is set to see a public release in just a couple of weeks has very little in the way of new Siri functionality. However, there is a key functionality that would be a precursor to multi-step tasks. Siri in iOS 17 is able to recognize and respond to multiple back-to-back requests without needing to be reactivated. This is something that was not possible in iOS 16. For example, users can ask the time and follow that up with a request to text a friend that they’re going to be late without initiating two separate requests.
With iOS 17, Apple is also eliminating the “Hey” wake word. This means that you can now just say “Siri” to activate the personal assistant. Eliminating “Hey” allows for more natural interactions.
Apple follows a strict schedule for its software releases, so we can expect to see iOS 18’s feature set unveiled at the 2024 Worldwide Developers Conference.