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Interacting with Siri: Your Voice-Controlled Assistant

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This chapter shows what you can use Siri to help with and provides tips for speaking in ways Siri is most likely to understand.

For decades, science-fiction TV shows and movies like Star Trek have depicted mobile computers that respond to the human voice. Just as the concept for the iPad itself could have been lifted from imaginative science-fiction stories, the same is true for Siri. Built in to iOS 6 and accessible from the iPad, Siri takes the voice dictation feature that’s built in to the tablet a step further by enabling you to control the device, issue commands, make requests, and ask questions using your voice.

To activate Siri, simply press and hold down the Home button on the iPad for 2 to 3 seconds. Regardless of what app you’re running, a pop-up window appears that displays a microphone icon and the message, “What can I help you with?” (shown in Figure 2.1). At the same time, you hear an audible tone. Now, ask a question, issue a verbal command, or make your request. Speak in a normal voice using everyday language.

Figure 2.1

Figure 2.1. When the animated microphone icon appears and you hear the audible tone, Siri is ready to accept your spoken command or request.

When you’re finished with your command or request, stop speaking. There is no need to tap the microphone icon to begin the transcription process. However, if you’re in a very noisy area, this might be necessary if Siri can’t discern your voice from the background noise.

In many instances, Siri offers an alternative to tapping on-screen icons or manually entering data into your iPad. It also can be used to streamline the process of finding and using data that’s stored on your tablet or retrieved from the Internet.

Siri Can Handle a Wide Range of Tasks

As you’re about to discover, Siri can be used for a wide range of tasks. After you learn the types of requests or commands Siri can handle, the next step is using the right commands or phrasing to generate the desired responses. Keep in mind that the technology Siri utilizes is constantly improving, so new functionality and improved accuracy are constantly being incorporated into this already powerful iPad feature.

Initiating a command with a specific word or phrase will tell Siri which app to utilize. For example, when you begin a command with “Remind me to...” this will create a new item in the Reminders app. You can also begin a phrase by saying, “Search the web for...” to instruct Siri to look up content from the Internet.

The following are just some of the tasks Siri can handle for you:

  • Initiate a FaceTime call. Say, “Call [insert name].”
  • Launch an app. Say, “Open [insert app name]” or “Launch [insert app name].”
  • Compose and send a message via iMessage. Say, “Tell [insert name] [insert message].” For example, “Tell Jason Rich I am running 15 minutes late.”
  • Add an event to the Calendar app. Say, “Set up a meeting on Wednesday, November 14 at 10am to have lunch with Ryan at Morton’s Steak House.” This is shown in Figure 2.2. After you tap the Confirm button, a new event is created in the Calendar app.

    Figure 2.2

    Figure 2.2. You can create new events in the Calendar app using Siri. Be sure to provide all the relevant details, such as the event name, time, date, and location.

  • Obtain the latest scores for your favorite sporting events or teams. Say, “Did the Boston Red Sox win?” You also can ask something like, “When is the next [insert sports team]’s game?” or “Who won the last [insert sports team] game?”
  • Access detailed directions between locations using the Maps app. Say, “How do I get home from here?” or “How to I get to [insert name]’s house?” Siri can look up details from the Contacts app or find major locations (such as landmarks or airports) via the Internet. Thus, if you’re in New York City, you could ask Siri, “How do I get to LaGuardia Airport?”
  • Compose and send a Tweet via Twitter to your followers. Say, “Tweet [insert message.]”
  • Compose and post status updates on Facebook. Say, “Post to Facebook, [insert message].” As shown in Figure 2.3, you could say, “Post to Facebook, I am going out to lunch to Primos’s sandwich shop. Would anyone care to join me?” Tap on the Post button to publish this status update on Facebook after Siri transcribes what you’ve said.

    Figure 2.3

    Figure 2.3. Begin composing a status update for Facebook using Siri by saying, “Post to Facebook...”

  • Find a restaurant and/or make a reservation. Say, “Find a Chinese restaurant in [insert town or city]” or “Table for two at [insert restaurant name] in [insert city] for tonight at [insert time].” As shown in Figure 2.4, when you say, “Find a Chinese restaurant in Boston, Massachusetts,” Siri displays a listing of related options. Each listing contains the restaurant’s name, category, address, Yelp!’s star-based rating, Yelp’s price range, and the distance you are from the restaurant’s location. Tap on any listing to view more information about that restaurant.

    Figure 2.4

    Figure 2.4. Use Siri to locate restaurants, learn about them using data from Yelp!, and even book a reservation using the free Open Table service.

  • Discover what movies are playing at local theaters. Say, “What movies are playing nearby?” or “What movies are playing at [insert theater name]?” You also can ask specific questions about any movie, such as “Who stars in [insert movie name]?” or “Who directed [insert movie name]?” To read the latest reviews for a movie, activate Siri and say, “Show me the movie reviews for [insert movie title].” Siri will access the Rotten Tomatoes website and display reviews that you can then read on the screen.
  • Play music using the Music app. Choose individual songs, or choose a playlist that’s stored on your iPad. Say, “Play [insert song title],” or “Play [insert artist name, album title, or Playlist name].” As music is playing, you can also activate Siri and issue commands, such as Play, Pause, Skip or Repeat.
  • Compose and add items to a list using the Reminders app. Say, “Remind me to...” followed by the item you want added. You can include specific information, such as a location or deadline. For example, you could say, “Remind me to pick up my dry cleaning tomorrow at 6pm.” or “Remind me to pay my credit card bill when I get home.”
  • Compose and send an email message via the Mail app. Say, “Email [insert name] about [insert message subject.]” Follow the voice prompts to then compose and review the body of your email message.
  • Check the weather. Say, “What is the weather today?” or “What is the weather forecast for tomorrow in New York City?” You can also ask to review the upcoming long-term forecast by saying, “What’s the weather forecast for next week?” When you say, “What’s the weather forecast for Los Angeles?”, for example, Figure 2.5 shows what Siri displays while it’s also speaking the forecast. If, however, you ask, “What’s today’s weather in Los Angeles?”, Siri displays an hour-by-hour forecast for the current day (shown in Figure 2.6).

    Figure 2.5

    Figure 2.5. Obtain an extended weather forecast for any city using Siri, just by asking for it.

    Figure 2.6

    Figure 2.6. You can also view the hour-by-hour weather forecast for today by altering your verbal request slightly.

  • Obtain the latest stock quotes. Ask, “What is [insert company name]’s stock price?” or “What did [insert company name] close at today?”
  • Set a wake-up call using the Clock app. Say, “Wake me up tomorrow at 7:15am.” or “Set an alarm for 8:00pm tonight.”
  • Discover what time it is in other cities. Ask, “What time is it in London?”
  • Set a timer. Say, “Set a timer for 15 minutes.” You can then say, “Pause timer,” “Show timer,” “Resume timer,” or “Stop timer.”
  • Utilize information in the Contacts app. Ask, “What is [insert name]’s address?” or “What is [insert name]’s phone number?” You also can say something like, “Message mom...,” or “Show me [insert name].” This last request displays the contact’s entry on the tablet’s screen.
  • Find the location of your “friends” using the optional Find My Friends app. Say, “Where is Emily?” or “Who is near me?”
  • Compose notes to yourself using the Notes app. Say, “Note that...” and dictate your note. You can then display your notes by saying something like, “Show me notes from [insert date].”
  • Perform searches on the Web. Say, “Search the Web for....”
  • Ask questions that require Siri to access the Internet to find an answer. Ask something like, “What is the state flower for Nebraska?”
  • Perform mathematical calculations. Say, “What is two plus two?” or “What is 15 percent of $62.50?” As shown in Figure 2.7, Siri can be helpful when you need to quickly calculate a server’s tip when dining out, for example.

    Figure 2.7

    Figure 2.7. Ask Siri, “What is 15 percent of $62.50?” and the answer is calculated and displayed promptly.

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