Apple’s next major product announcement shindig is expected soon —Sept. 9, to be precise. The company’s rigorously annual fall event is always a source of rabid speculation. Industry watchers expect a new iPhone, in keeping with Apple’s usual release rhythms, featuring minor upgrades and probably some interesting new haptic technology.
But this time around, analysts are also expecting details on a new and improved Apple TV — the company’s digital media player and set-top box that’s been relatively neglected in recent years. Rumors suggest that the next-generation Apple TV unit will feature a slimmer chassis, upgraded storage and OS elements, a flashy remote with touchpad input, and integration with a new and improved App Store.
Perhaps most interesting for Joe and Jane Couchsurfer: The new Apple TV will support full voice control by way of everyone’s favorite artificial intelligence — Siri.
I’ll be frank: I dig this idea. Like so many citizens of the 21st century, I spend an alarmingly disproportionate amount of time in front of my television. In addition to devouring several of those quaint artifacts known as network television shows, I pipe pretty much everything else through that box in front of my couch: video games, sports subscription services (Go Pirates!), Netflix, music, photos, and even the occasionalcriminally underrated sci-fi series on DVD.
It can get a little lonely chasing down my various pop-culture obsessions. It would be nice to have someone to talk to.
Here’s the first thing I thought of when I read about the Siri integration: I could ask her to name those obscure character actors in old movies that always distract me until I look them up on IMDb.com on my phone.
Me: Hey Siri, that guy that plays Kobayashi in The Usual Suspects, didn’t he play a guy in one of the Alien movies?
Siri: Cross-referencing, please wait. The Usual Suspects, 1995.Alien 3, 1992. The performer is Pete Postlethwaite. Classically trained British actor. Born 1946, died 2011.
Me: He died?
Siri: Yes, Jan. 2, 2011.
Me: Oh, that’s a shame. Hey, he was in Jurassic Park too, right?
Look, I’m not proud, but I’m pretty sure that’s precisely how I’ll be interacting with Siri and her cutting-edge voice recognition and neural network technology. I’ll be nerding out on useless trivia and excruciating minutiae. The introduction of a companion AI could mark a watershed moment in television — like the introduction of color TV, or cable, or VHS, or androids posing as network news anchors. (That’s a personal theory.)
People have been talking to their televisions since the dawn of the medium. What’s going to happen when the television can talk back? And answer questions? With Siri there to run down all our tangential impulses and trivial pursuits, I suspect watching TV is going to get a lot more interesting — at least for media consumers of a certain intensity.
Siri, after neglecting for years to make good use of your virtual assistance, I think this will finally be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.