While Android boss Andy Rubin told an AsiaD audience that smartphone users should talk to people, not to their devices (essentially poking a stick as Apple's new Siri feature on the iPhone 4S), an Android development team named Dexetra was hard at work creating a rival product called "Iris."
Sorry Andy, but even the developer community thinks interaction with an Android smartphone would be cool, and it only took Dexetra six to eight hours to create the first alpha version. Of course, Android 4.0 "Ice Cream Sandwich" will feature a much-improved voice input engine, but whatever.
"It started out as a lazy Friday with half our team missing, the influx of tweets and posts on the 'Awesome Siri' were flying everywhere," reads the company blog on October 14. "Suddenly, I got the urge to do something similar for Android. Since we have been working on NLP and Machine learning for over an year now, I had a crazy belief that I could pull this off. Somehow I managed to write a tiny engine that could answer your questions, digging the results from the web."
One week later, the revised alpha looks nothing like it did before, moving beyond mere questions to allow further conversations about the same topic. "Even ask her how she is feeling today, whether she likes something etc. You can also try those Siri like wacky questions and Iris will give you sarcastic answers," the company said on Friday.
To test this, I asked Iris how she felt today. At first she responded with an "Oi," but when I asked again, she decided she felt sleepy. Not really knowing what to ask a female AI next, I asked her about the weather. She pondered over my silly question for a moment, and then said it was sunny actually, "it's like proper spring."
"Will it rain?" I asked. I planned to go stretch my legs after having my little conversation. She promptly told me that a typhoon was coming. Oh yea? And where exactly is this typhoon given that I'm on the east coast?
"On the earth, duh," she responded in her flat-but-edgy electronic voice. Smartass.
"Are you my new girlfriend?" I then asked, creeping myself out a bit. I hoped that no one was hearing me.
I got a flat nope, duly rejected by an Android phone. Surprisingly discouraged, I asked if she hated me. She responded with a prompt "no, I don't hate anyone. Hate is a useless emotion."
"Do you have any emotions, Iris?" Not even Mr. Data has emotion unless he fires up that special chip in his head.
"Yes," she responded. "I do have emotions."
After that, I turned off the app and clicked the phone into standby mode. That was enough Iris for me today, thank you very much.
In addition to the whole conversation mode (which is admittedly fun and creepy at the same time), the new and improved Iris now pulls up images and links when possible, is a lot faster than the previous alpha build, and is reportedly more intelligent. "We have added a few more fact engines to the mix," the company said. "Now iris has an enhanced knowledge base. So expect more questions to be answered."
To get Iris loaded up on your Android device, head here. Your new robotic assistant (girlfriend) will also require "Voice Search" and "TTS Library" apps to be installed if they aren't already. Now if she just had an actual face...