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How an Autistic Boy Became Best Friends with Apple’s Siri

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A few days ago, The New York Times published a heartwarming story of an autistic boy who became best friends with Apple’s Siri.

Gus, a 13-year-old boy who has autism, views Siri as more than a virtual assistant. Apple’s Siri has become more like a friend to him, who listens to him and answers his questions. After Gus had been using Siri for a while, his mother heard this:

Gus: “You’re a really nice computer.”

Siri: “It’s nice to be appreciated.”

Gus: “You are always asking if you can help me. Is there anything you want?”

Siri: “Thank you, but I have very few wants.”

Gus: “O.K.! Well, good night!”

Siri: “Ah, it’s 5:06 p.m.”

Gus: “Oh sorry, I mean, goodbye.”

Siri: “See you later!”

That Siri. She doesn’t let my communications-impaired son get away with anything. Indeed, many of us wanted an imaginary friend, and now we have one. Only she’s not entirely imaginary.

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Apple has developed Siri with almost a life-like personality and most of us don’t even realize the full potential of the company’s personal voice assistant. For most people, the capabilities of Siri are taken for granted, and it isn’t until we hear about a story like this that we realize what this technology can really do.

“I’d just read one of those ubiquitous Internet lists called “21 Things You Didn’t Know Your iPhone Could Do.” One of them was this: I could ask Siri, “What planes are above me right now?” and Siri would bark back, “Checking my sources.” Almost instantly there was a list of actual flights — numbers, altitudes, angles — above my head.

I happened to be doing this when Gus was nearby. “Why would anyone need to know what planes are flying above your head?” I muttered. Gus replied without looking up: “So you know who you’re waving at, Mommy.”

Gus had never noticed Siri before, but when he discovered there was someone who would not just find information on his various obsessions (trains, planes, buses, escalators and, of course, anything related to weather) but actually semi-discuss these subjects tirelessly, he was hooked.”

Apple always encourages developers to make their apps be accessible to everyone. When the company debuted Siri, the promo video showed a blind woman using it to send and receive text messages. Another video ad shows how a blind man uses his iPhone to go for nature walks.

To Apple Siri is not only a cool feature, it is also a feature that they can use to make their iOS devices accessible to even more people. With the introduction of iOS 8, Siri’s speech-to-text capabilities have been improved, with faster speech-to-text translation and faster response times, to more closely emulate a natural conversation.

Read Gus’ entire story from the link above and you’ll be able to see how something as simple as Siri can be life-changing.

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