Apple’s AI assistant Siri is getting a more natural-sounding voice, help with multi-step custom voice commands in the Shortcuts app, quick SMS responses with AirPods, and personalized results with the HomePod smart speaker.
The news was announced today at the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) at the McEnery Convention Center in San Jose, California.
AirPods users will soon be able to share music by simply touching iPhones together, and when your SMS messages arrive, Siri will read them to you and give you the ability send a hands-free response.
The HomePod will soon deliver personalized responses for users so they hear music based on their play history, as well as their calendar, reminders, calls, messages, and notes. This follows suit with Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant, who are also making more personalized experiences based on the person speaking to the AI assistant.
HomePod is also getting the ability to hand off music or your favorite podcast just by bringing your iPhone close to the device. The same can be done to bring the music with you when you leave a room.
Neural Text-to-Speech (TTS) in iOS 13 will also deliver a more natural-sounding voice for Siri, delivering a voice that requires no use of human voice samples for the first time. Improvements for a more expressive Siri was also introduced in 2017.
On the road, Siri in Apple’s Car Play is getting a new calendar app, and a redesign of the music experience on car infotainment screens with more album art.
Finally, the Shortcuts app will be able to automatically create multi-step custom voice commands that match your routines or habits. Shortcuts complement and build upon SiriKit, a set of pre-made commands for messaging apps, ride-hailing apps, and other specific categories of apps.
The series of upgrades will be announced as part of he debut of iOS 13 due out this fall. Also announced today: A new modular Mac Pro on wheels, watchOS 6 with Activity Trends to follow fitness over the span of 3 months or a year, and privacy enhancements. For privacy, Apple added “Sign in with Apple” for all Apple platforms and on web and HomeKit for WiFI certification and home security video.
Named Catalina, the latest version of macOS allows you to use an iPad as a separate screen. Voice Control draws on Siri’s intelligence to make the operating system accessible for people who can’t use their hands.
Siri Shortcuts, a way to create custom voice commands for Siri and iOS apps, was first introduced in beta at WWDC last year, where Siri Suggestions for developers to recommend a voice action were also introduced.
Since being introduced with the launch of iOS 12 last fall, Shortcuts have been used to do things like track a run with the Nike Run Club app, get the Merriam-Webster word of the day, start a Day One journal entry, and even say “Hey Siri, OK Google” to interact with the Google Assistant iOS app. Shortcuts appear to have incorporated some of the tech of Workflow, a startup acquired by Apple in 2017.
Siri Shortcuts compete with Alexa Routines and Google Assistant Routines, other ways to customize commands and carry out multiple actions at once. Bixby Routines for personalization of Samsung’s AI assistant were introduced earlier this year.