How Can We Help?
GUI is so 90’s
Lately, I find myself increasingly annoyed to have to use my phone to perform boring and recurring tasks like look up the quote of a special cryptocurrency. Especially in some circumstances like eg when I’m home. At home, I want to feel foremost comfortable. This is hard to achieve when I have to get up to search for my phone, once again. Wouldn’t it be nice to just ask in the room and get the answers?
Wait but there is Siri, right? So what can it do for me and what can developers achieve with it today?
Hey Siri, are we there yet?
Turns out that SiriKit offers a set of predefined intents ready to be used. That’s a start. But those cannot handle my specific requests and I guess a lot of others as well. To be fully usable something like custom parametrized intents would be nice. I would like that Siri understands something like:
“Hey Siri, what’s the price of
<your cryptocurrency> in
To be fair. When asking this for Bitcoin and USD you would get an answer. Depending on how the question is formulated Siri would start the Stocks app in preview or get something from the Web. But when trying to get an answer for other rather “unknown” cryptocurrencies, Siri struggles. I totally get that this question may seem fairly simple for a human to process but it is certainly not that simple for Siri to filter out the domain in question and start the “right” app for the job.
Hence I would also be satisfied with something in the form of a QA for the beginning:
> “Hey Siri, cryptocurrency price”
< “For what cryptocurrency?”
< “In what currency?”
In that way, developers could assign to specific keywords (in this case “cryptocurrency price”) input dialogues to get params to process those and render a response. Something similar to URL schemas.
After looking a bit deeper I stumbled upon an interesting blog post which clarified it for me:
There are also some hands on blogposts how to set up “Custom Intents”:
- A beginner’s guide to developing Custom Intent Siri Shortcuts for iOS 12
- Building an Interactive Voice App Using Custom Siri Shortcuts in iOS 12
I’ll just wait here then
Since iOS 12 it is possible to create a custom Intent in the form of an
Intents.intentdefinition file. Here app developers can specify parameters which the app can process. To stick with the cryptocurrency example: When the user is searching for a price of a cryptocurrency inside an app, the app can create an Intent with the parameters already filled out. Eg. Show the price of Bitcoin in USD. Furthermore, the app can now “donate” this specific Intent (already parametrized) to the system. This “donation” would appear on the lock screen and as a shortcut ready to be used.
This means one could assign a custom Siri voice command to trigger this Intent. It also means that if you have 5 favourite cryptocurrencies and 3 favourite currencies you would have to go through this step 15 times inside the app. Afterwards, you would need to assign 15 voice commands to those donations.
Well, honestly this is not the way I would like it to be. But it’s a start and I hope that with iOS 13 we get something like parametrized Intents for the user to trigger.