SCIENCE + TECHNOLOGY

Why Apple may be working on a ‘hey Siri’ change, namely shortening it

Nov 7, 2022, 3:25 PM

Image of a cell phone receiving a voice command and Siri answering....

Apple reportedly wants to put an end to "Hey." The company is said to be training its voice assistant Siri to pick up on commands without needing the first half of the prompt phrase "Hey Siri." (Adobe stock via CNN)

(Adobe stock via CNN)

Originally Published: 07 NOV 22 13:41 ET
Updated: 07 NOV 22 13:47 ET

(CNN) — Apple reportedly wants to put an end to “hey.”

The company is said to be training its voice assistant Siri to pick up on commands without needing the first half of the prompt phrase “Hey Siri.” The trigger phrase is used to launch Siri on various products, including the iPhone, iPad, HomePod and Apple Watch.

Bloomberg, which first reported the news, said the change could come next year or in 2024. Apple did not respond to a request for comment from CNN Business.

Although the update would be seemingly minor, experts say it may signal broader changes are coming and could require extensive artificial intelligence training. Lian Jye Su, a research director at ABI Research, said having two trigger words allows the system to more accurately recognize requests, so the move to one word would lean on a more advanced AI system.

“During the recognition phase, the system compares the voice command to the user-trained model,” Su said. “‘Siri’ is much shorter than ‘Hey Siri,’ giving the system potentially less comparison points and higher error rate in an echo-y, large room and noisy environments,” such as in the car or when wind is present.

The move would allow Apple to catch up to Amazon’s “Alexa” prompt that doesn’t require a first wake word for its voice assistant. Microsoft shifted away from “Hey Cortana” in 2018, now allowing users to only say “Cortana” on smart speakers. However, “OK Google” is still required for most Google product requests.

The move away from “Hey Siri” would also come at a time when Apple, Amazon and Google are collaborating on the Matter automation standard, which will allow automation and Internet of Things devices from different vendors to interoperate.

With this in mind, James Sanders, a principal analyst at market research firm CCS Insight, said “redoubling efforts on improving Siri functionality is likely a priority at Apple.”

Siri launched in February 2010 as a standalone iOS app in the Apple App Store before it was acquired by the tech giant two months later. The company then integrated Siri into the iPhone 4S, which was released the following year, and introduced the ability to say “Hey Siri” without physically touching a button in 2014.

Siri has gotten smarter over the years. That’s thanks to third-party integration such as ride hailing and payment apps, and supporting follow-up questions, more languages and different accents. However, it still has issues with not understanding users and responding incorrectly.

“While the ‘Hey Siri’ change requires a considerable amount of work, it would be surprising if Apple announced only this change to Siri,” Sanders said. “Considering the rumored timing, I would anticipate this change to be bundled with other new or improved functionality for Siri, perhaps alongside a new model of HomePod and integrations with other smart home products via Matter, as a reintroduction to Apple’s voice assistant.”

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Why Apple may be working on a ‘hey Siri’ change, namely shortening it