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Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Siri is onto something new

 With yesterday’s release of iOS 14.3, Siri got a new trick: the ability to play real-world sound samples on command. Ask “Hey Siri, what does _____ sound like?” and it will start playing the sound for you. If you ask on an iPhone or iPad, it will show you a picture as well. Google Assistant has been able to do this for a few years now, but now it’s available for the iPhone, iPad, and HomePod.


Apple hasn’t announced how many sounds it’s added, but it’s been able to handle most of the animals I asked about (except for some obscure ones that I’m not sure have a real distinctive noise, like an anteater). At the moment, it seems like the sounds are limited to animals, vehicles, and musical instruments. I tried asking for some nature-y sounds, such as thunder or a waterfall, and Siri didn’t play anything.

Interestingly, it’s got samples for different breeds of dog, so you can hear what a mastiff sounds like compared to a Shih Tzu. There are obviously quite a few things that Siri doesn’t have sound samples for, and in some cases (like when I asked what humans sound like), it doesn’t even try. As you can tell from the end of the video, Siri is Siri — technical imperfections and all. (At one point, Siri started answering the question, stopped, said it was sorry, and restarted its answer.)

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