Apple’s Siri is a capable assistant, but there’s one secretarial task it can’t perform: transcribing voicemail messages. But that may soon be changing In news that’s sure to dismay temp agencies everywhere, Apple’s preparing to beef up Siri’s clerical capabilities with an answering system that intercepts, listens to, and converts spoken words into text.
According to Business Insider, the new service carries the iCloud brand and is not dissimilar to Google Voice’s speech-to-text feature. Incoming calls that roll over to voicemail are “answered” by Siri, which relays information to the caller about your location and why you weren’t able to answer the phone. The content of recorded messages are then (presumably) sent to Apple’s servers, converted, and sent to the recipient as text.
It’s very much in its early days, apparently. Apple employees have been testing Siri-powered transcription for the past several weeks in preparation for a “2016” launch, reports Business Insider, potentially as part of the next major iOS release.
Voicemail conversion services aren’t new — Google Voice launched with transcription in 2009 — but accuracy has long been their Achilles heel. Poor call quality and flaky language processing have often led to garbled transcriptions. Services now seem to be making tangible strides, however, and last month, Google announced that it managed to cut Voice’s conversion inaccuracies by 49 percent.
It’s unclear if Apple’s transcription service will match the reliability of systems like that of the new Google Voice, which relies in part on machine learning. But the Cupertino-based company, no doubt eager to avoid the fickleness of early Siri iterations, is focusing like a laser on “reliability,” according to Business Insider.
Apple hasn’t neglected Siri in the meantime, though. In iOS 9, the digital assistant can show contextual reminders in Safari, Notes, and Mail, provide transit directions, perform math equations and unit conversions, and surface photos from specific places. The new features will roll out alongside the stable release of iOS 9 this fall.