One of the biggest announcements Apple has ever made was on Apple’s WWDC about the Siri API being available for developers. This new framework is known as SiriKit which allows developers to integrate Siri into apps, making it easier to get things done.
Imagine if you can get these done through your apps:
“Hey Siri, pay the phone bill via Pay App.”
“Hey Siri, add flour to the grocery list in My Lists App.”
“Hey Siri, message a Thank You to Dad via Messaging App.”
This is basically what you can achieve with integrating Siri with your applications. In this article, we will discuss how can you integrate Siri into apps and use voice command to complete tasks through apps.
What is Siri?
Siri was developed by Apple in 2011 and was the first ever AI voice recognition assistant. The programming for this was done using Objective-C for platforms such as iPhone, Apple iPad, Macintosh, Apple TV, etc. This invention was one of a kind and enabled customers to use voice command for their mobile devices.
Siri has been loved by users ever since Apple introduced it 6 years ago but due to some restrictions, iOS app developers could not use the Siri framework for their own apps.
There is no doubt that Siri is being used by millions today and after the launch of SiriKit, it will only see more growth. Using SiriKit in iOS apps is something every developer wants to do since the voice recognition market is seeing high growth. The voice recognition market is set to hit $13.8 billions by 2023 and therefore Apple has launched SiriKit for developers.
How does Siri Work?
By now we all are familiar with Siri and what it does. Usually, users don’t bother about the tech behind Siri as long as it does what it is supposed to do i.e. take voice commands and execute them. But the mechanism behind Siri is quite interesting.
Siri used two technologies: Voice recognition and natural language processing. The voice recognition is used to convert the voice command in a text form. For instance when you say “Hey Siri”, you will see the same text appear on the screen. This is when Siri wakes up and is ready to take command.
However, this is not that easy. The language that each person uses may be the same but the accents vary from city to city. This brings in difficulty to analyse the command that Siri receives.
For this, engineers at Apple used machine learning to train multiple models for Siri for an effective speech recognition. This has led to a downfall in speech recognition error to only 10%.
With the launch of SiriKit, this technology can be used in other apps as well by Siri integration with 3rd party apps.
What is SiriKit?
SiriKit is a framework that Apple developed recently for iOS app developers. This allows the iPhone app developers to add tailor-made features to Siri which will be integrated with the third party apps to achieve the best user experience. As good as it sounds, SiriKit is only available for iOS 10 and newer versions.
Siri is natural for users because users just have to talk to Siri and that will be enough to get tasks done. But when it comes to developers, the functionality of Siri is quite complex. Thanks to Apple’s SiriKit, developers just have to put the functionality with the help of SiriKit and Apple will take care of the conversational aspects.
However, at the time this article is being written, SiriKit does not support all the app domains. A domain is a group of things that Siri knows about. Within the domains, there are Intents which are activities Siri can perform. Let’s say Payment is the domain under which transferring funds and bill payments are the intents.
The domains SiriKit supports are:
- Visual codes
- Ride booking
- Photo search
- Climate and radio
- VoIP calling
What are the Pros and Cons of using SiriKit in iOS Apps?
Finally, Apple is catching up with Google Now, Cortana and Alexa by opening up its framework to enable Siri in third-party apps. Apple did launch SiriKit for developers to integrate Siri into apps but it still has some pros and cons. Let’s take a look at them one by one.
What are the Pros?
- The voice recognition market is targeted to hit $18.3 billion by the year 2023 and SiriKit has allowed iPhone app developers to get in that market.
- SiriKit is a big deal in iOS app development. It helps in improving app performance.
- SiriKit is available for six different kinds of apps such as video and audio calling apps, messaging apps, workout apps, payments apps, etc.
- It works in four simple steps: Speech, Intent, Action, and Response.
- When a user commands Siri, it confirms before finally executing the task. This reduces any chances of mishaps.
- The SiriKit also allows developers to custom design the UI while integrating Siri with apps for the users to view the confirmation box for any task.
- It is just the beginning and the performance already shows a promising future for Siri and apps.
What are the Cons?
- SiriKit is only available for iOS 10 and versions above it. This reduces the market for iOS developers initially.
- While developers enable Siri in third-party apps, they can specify the word of their choice, however, SiriKit has word limitations.
- Although Apple is allowing Siri integration with 3rd party apps, the SiriKit is still not available for the recently updated macOS Sierra with Siri.
- Apps with Siri integration may have chances of mistakes when it comes to different accents of users in which case Siri assumes commands.
What is the Market and Competition?
According to App Store stats 2018, Apple has seen tremendous growth all these years when it comes to mobile apps. However, one thing Apple didn’t allow was third-party apps with Siri integration which is surprising considering all its competitors are way ahead in the area.
Apple might be a little late when it comes to letting in the third-party applications use voice recognition. The competition in this market is high with Google Now, Windows Cortana and Amazon’s Alexa. The market revenue is set to grow tremendously in the future as the chart above shows itself.
The major players in the voice recognition market other than the ones mentioned above are:
- Nuance Communications
- Agnitio Corp
- Auraya Systems
- VoiceBox Technologies
- Fulcrum Biometrics
With this, we end the introduction part. In the next section, we will now get into details on how to integrate Siri in your app.
We finally arrive at the answer to the much-asked question ‘How to extend your iOS app with Siri?’. In the following points, you will learn how to integrate Siri with your app in a very simple yet detailed manner.
Adding intent extensions
As known beforehand, two apps run on their own and cannot interact with each other on iOS. This is where SiriKit comes into picture which allows one app to interact with other apps as well as share data. This mechanism is known as extensions. Siri uses two extensions for this:
- Intent Extension
Intent extension is how Siri and the application will interact with each other. It is crucial for the interaction and without this extension, Siri cannot be used.
- Intent UI Extension
The Intent UI extension is used when the developers want to show custom view to the users. Siri already has a default view but if developers wish they can create a custom view for the apps.
Once the extension is added, the intents extension’s info.plist is edited to let the app know which requests to process. Developers can add further information such as category, title, description, parameters and its types, etc. This helps to understand which intents are acceptable by the app.
The developers must specify the words that will allow the requests to be processed. This makes the work of the app a tad bit easier. The specified words also help the app to understand what the user wants.
That is all you need to do to run your iOS app with Siri integration. Also, make sure that Siri is enabled in the App ID to make this work. Follow these steps to implement:
- Make sure the Intents Extension target is selected.
- Run it.
- When Xcode prompts the app to run, choose Siri.
Once everything is done, start your interaction with Siri and see how your intents extension works.
What is in the Future of Siri?
SiriKit is new to the iOS app development area and it will take time for developers to adapt to it. Also, the limitation for using words to make commands may be a problem for users when they are trying to be specific with their commands. Apple still needs to upgrade the framework and allow more flexibility to the app developers.
Keeping the users in mind, Apple recently launched its iOS 12.1 with numerous features and now they have introduced SiriKit for developers. The convenience of the voice command is a lifesaver for users and Apple is likely to add more apps to the list other than the six it already has.
Famous apps like Netflix, Google Maps, etc. are still not supported by SiriKit.
These AI based voice recognition technologies are going to change the way of life in the future. Although Apple is new in the race, it going to catch up fast with other players. It will be a great surprise to see what else AI can do for the humans.
As an iPhone app development company, this is our take on Apple’s new SiriKit and ways to use SiriKit with apps. But if you wish to know more on how to extend your iOS app with SiriKit then contact our team at Appinventiv and our experts will get back to you.
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