Siri can’t talk to me: The challenge of teaching language to voice assistants

Enlarge / Depending on your language preferences, the answer to this prompt remains “no.”

Apple’s most recent fall event centered on excitement about the iPhone X, face recognition replacing Touch ID, OLED displays, and a cellular-enabled Apple Watch. But instead of “one more thing,” people living in Poland, Lithuania, Slovakia, Czech Republic, and many other places all over the world certainly noticed one missing thing.

Siri learned no new languages, and it’s kind of a big deal.

Touch screen works splendidly as an interface for a smartphone, but with the tiny display of a smartwatch it becomes a nuisance. And smart speakers that Apple wants to ship by the end of the year will have no screens at all. Siri—and other virtual assistants like Google Assistant, Cortana, or Bixby—are increasingly becoming a primary way we interact with our gadgets. And talking to an object in a foreign language at your own home in your own country just to make it play a song makes you feel odd.

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