commentary What do Apple's Siri and Microsoft's Kinect have in common besides processing voice commands? Right from the get-go they were both a top target for tinkerers.
Look no further than this past weekend's very neat hack of Siri, which managed to get the voice software--which is perhaps best known for being the first major voice recognition system that has a personality--to control a home thermostat.
Not content with searching for weather reports and dictating voice notes, programmer Peter Lamonica put together a software workaround to funnel Siri's voice commands through a separate server, then used those commands to interface with the digital thermostat. The end result let Siri both check and change the temperature settings, using Apple's servers to do the heavy lifting when it came to transcribing. Keep in mind this is just a little more than a month out from the release of the iPhone 4S.
Is this a watershed moment for the kinds of things mobile phones can do? No, but it was a big one for Siri. Users took some of its basics, and rethought the kinds of things they could do with it.
Something very similar happened with the Kinect last year. Unlike Apple, which packaged Siri as an exclusive software feature within the iPhone 4S, Microsoft sold the Kinect as a $150 add-on for its Xbox 360 platform. The move gave owners of a five-year old piece of hardware new ways to control their system, and games with voice and motion controls.
Seeing a cool new gadget to hack, tinkerers--and not just Xbox owners--took to the platform immediately, wanting to have their way with the hardware, and use it in places Microsoft was not yet offering, like on desktop PCs. A week after the Kinect's release, that's just what happened. … Read more