WWDC UX Insights: Siri for MacOS – will business really adopt voice UI?

Digital, Experience, Innovation, News, Opinion, UX

Last week, we watched with interest as Apple’s 27th Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) unfolded in San Francisco. While this event is for Apple’s 30 million registered developers – the new technology inevitably impacts on user experience. And at RMA we need to know how. During this series of WWDC blog posts by RMA design leads, we will share our different UX design insights and opinions on the latest announcements:

  1. Siri for MacOS – insights by George Neill
  2. Messages app – insights by Mischa Weiss-Lijn
  3. Embracing automation – insights by Benjamin Hobson

Siri on the desktop – the adoption challenge

I personally found this week’s WWDC a little underwhelming, with the most interesting piece of news being that Siri is coming to the desktop via the newly updated MacOS. To a large extent, it’s Apple playing catch up with Windows, where Cortana has been for a while. Craig Federighi’s keynote presentation was, of course, pitch perfect and glitch-free, but we won’t know for sure until it’s generally available how good Siri will be in reality at doing the kind of things he demonstrated.

One thing’s for sure, though: it’s going to have be considerably better than the somewhat flaky Cortana for it not to quickly become an intensely frustrating experience. Cortana is great at “find file x” or “what’s the weather today” type queries, but it relies too frequently on opening browser windows populated with Bing searches. And if you go just slightly off-piste in terms of the commands you give it, it simply gives up.

So adoption will be a major challenge for Apple. If Siri fails often enough in our early interactions with it, we’ll quickly revert to earlier behaviours and forget all about it. But even if it works perfectly, I wonder how many people will actually use it, particularly in a business environment.


NUI – it’s been a lot of fun

I have an in-built scepticism gland that activates automatically whenever the topic of Natural User Interfaces (NUI) is raised, and it goes into overload when I hear about the latest best thing. No matter how cool gestural UIs were (and note the past tense there) for playing games in your sitting room, I don’t believe they work when you’re sitting at your desk. Partly because there are proven physical and ergonomic issues relating to waving your hands around in front of your screen all day, and partly because people are so strongly self-conscious by nature. We just don’t want to look like idiots in public.  Nissan launched a Kinect based car showroom experience in 2012, and it still provides a perfect example of what I mean. Naturally, it bombed. Primarily, I believe, because despite being described as “natural”, it’s anything but. Plus, of course, it didn’t actually add any value beyond being (briefly) cool.


Siri – a private affair?

I have the same reservations about voice UI. I keep hearing about people who think Siri and Cortana are awesome, but I genuinely don’t think I’ve ever seen (or heard) anyone actually use them. For myself, “set alarm for 5am” is about it. It’s kind of cool, but I only do it in the privacy of my own bedroom, and I could happily manage without it.

So can I see myself using Siri on my Mac at work? Definitely not. I’d worry first that my “Hey Siri” might activate the Macs on everyone else’s desk around me (I’ve had that happen a lot with my iPhone). And second, I’m not sure that I want everybody in the room to know what I’m up to, what I’m looking for, or what I’m interested in.

I can’t be alone, can I?


More insights from WWDC

To read more from my RMA colleagues on Apple’s announcements at WWDC check out:

  1. Messages app – insights by Mischa Weiss-Lijn
  2. Embracing automation – insights by Benjamin Hobson