Scottish Accents Foil iPhone 4S’ Siri

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October 26, 2011 10:55 a.m.

We’ve all heard about the cool and fun things that the iPhone 4S’ virtual personal assistant Siri can do.

Just like a live assistant, Siri can schedule appointments, point out potential scheduling conflicts, look up nearby restaurants, and even joke around with you. The system that combines artificial intelligence and voice-recognition can even speak and understand different languages.

And just like us humans, Siri can be befuddled by “strong” accents. The Times of London ran a story Wednesday (note, paywall) reporting that many people in Scotland are having a hard time getting Siri to understand their commands and comments.

The Times reports that when asked if it can fetch one of its owners a “fish supper,” Siri answered: “I don’t know what you mean, ‘can I pick up your professional drum people.'”

Other comments, such as “Cheers” said in a Scottish accent, was interpreted to mean “chairs.”

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The Times quotes the Scottish novelist James Robertson accusing Apple of “linguistic imperialism.”

“If the phone doesn’t recognise a simple word like ‘cheers’ it won’t recognise much,” Robertson complained. “People are obliged to moderate their voices to make themselves understood by machines. It has the effect of modulating everyone’s voice toward the most powerful, dominant people in the world.”

Apple says that Siri is designed to work in all of the the United Kingdom, the United States, and Australia.

The Times, however, scoured the streets of Edinburgh and Glasgow and reported that many people said that they had had a hard time getting Siri to understand them.

But perhaps the Scots should give Siri a little time.

It could be that she just needs some more time to become familiar with their accents over time — just like a human.

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