Apple unveils a new iOS app called “Siri Speech Study,” which allows users to share their speech. Feedback for Siri improvement

Apple has recently launched a study to gather speech data from participants. Earlier this month, the company launched a new iOS app called “Siri Speech Study” on the App Store, which allows participants who have opted in to share their voice requests and other feedback with Apple. Although the app is now available in many markets around the world, it does not appear on any of the App Store charts. It’s also not listed under the Utility category.

Sensor Tower data shows that the iOS app was launched in August 2009 and updated on August 18th. The study is currently accessible in Canada, the U.S. and Hong Kong. The app won’t appear in the App Store when you search by keywords or browse through the published Apple apps.

It doesn’t give any information on the specific study goals or how one could participate in it. It only links to a standard license agreement, and shows a screen in which participants would input their ID numbers to start.

Apple confirmed to TechCrunch that the app was only used for Siri product enhancements and provides a means for users to give feedback. Apple also stated that people must be invited to participate in the study. There is no way to register consumers.

Image Credits: App Store screenshot

Apple’s efforts to improve Siri are not limited to the app.

Apple tried in the past to find out more about Siri’s errors by having a small amount of voice recordings sent to contractors to be manually graded and reviewed. But a whistleblower alerted media outlet The Guardian that the process had allowed them to listen in on confidential details at times. Apple shortly thereafter made manual review an opt-in process and brought audio grading in-house. Although this type of data collection is continuing, it has a different purpose than a research study.

Focus group studies, which are similar to a study in a focus group, allow Apple to understand Siri’s errors better than broader data collections. They combine the data collected with feedback from humans. Apple stated that Siri Speech Study allows participants to provide feedback per request. Siri could ask users to explain why they are asking a question if it was misunderstood, Apple said. If Siri was triggered when the user hadn’t said “Hey Siri,” that could be noted. Or if Siri on HomePod misidentified the speaker in a multi-person household, the participant could note that, too.

Apple is not automatically sharing any of the data from participants. This is another distinguishing feature. Instead, the users will be able to see all of their Siri requests and choose which ones to email to Apple. Apple noted that the app does not collect or use any user data, other than the information directly supplied by participants.

Image Credits: Apple WWDC 2021

Apple recognizes the value of a virtual assistant who understands your needs.

This year, the company scooped up ex-Google A.I. Samy Bengio, scientist to make Siri an even stronger competitor to Google Assistant. Google Assistant’s advanced capabilities are often the key selling point of Android devices. Alexa-powered smart speaker are dominating US market, and they compete with Google globally, except China. Apple’s HomePod still has some way to go before it can catch up.

Virtual assistants still struggle to understand certain speech patterns despite all the advancements in voice-based computing over recent years. Earlier this year, for example, Apple said it would use a bank of audio clips from podcasts where users had stuttered to help it improve its understanding of this kind of speech pattern. When assistants are hearing voice commands across multiple rooms, they can stumble. Assistants may also make mistakes when trying distinguish between family members voices and when trying understand the voice of a child.

This means that there is still a lot of avenues that a speech study can pursue, even though they aren’t the current focus.

The fact that Apple has launched a Siri Speech Study is not a new phenomenon. Apple has been conducting studies and evaluations like these in the past. It’s rare to see Apple’s research published on the App Store.

Though Apple could have published the app through the enterprise distribution process to keep it more under wraps, it chose to use its public marketplace. The App Store rules are more clear as this research study isn’t an app that Apple employees can access internally.

It’s unlikely that consumers will find the Siri Speech Study app by accident. The app remains hidden from public view. To find the Siri Speech Study app, you will need to know its direct link. We are curious!

Publited at Fri, 20 August 2021 12:25.47 +0000

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