Will iPhone Assistant be the highlight of Apple's announcements today?

Taylor Martin
 from Concord, NC
Published: October 3, 2011

Take cover. Apple's past due iPhone announcement – whatever it truly may be – is scheduled for today. Seeing as their invitations to said announcement were tagged with "Let's talk iPhone," we all have been focused on the official announcement of an iPhone 4S or iPhone 5 (or both). We PhoneDoggers have given our takes on what Tim Cook and Co. will unveil tomorrow.

Since we have all pretty much seen what iOS 5 has to offer, none of us really gave much thought to software stealing the show. But Mashable's Ben Parr seems to think hardware will only be a small portion of the announcement. He believes tomorrow will be yet another revolutionary day in the mobile history books.

Why, exactly? Artificial intelligence.

You may recall an app called Siri. Just two months after the app's launch, Apple threw $200 million on the table and took the pocket personal assistant service under their wing. Since then, we really haven't heard too much about Siri. We have, however heard rumors of Apple's upcoming Assistant feature in iOS 5, which will only prove to be the "successor to Siri," says Parr.

Apple has needed an improvement on the existing, lackluster voice commands found in iOS for some time. But if Siri is the foundation of these improvements, Assistant will be much bigger than a simple voice command feature. It will be a mobile butler service. A personalized service that learns the more you use it. According to Parr, users will be able to speak their instructions to the phone and it will not only find what you are looking for, it will find a local taxi service for you (if needed), assist in booking a reservation and essentially whatever else you need it to do. It will even open applications and tell them what you want them to do. Parr says:

"The key though is that Assistant will learn. It will figure out what results you don’t like, what restaurants you frequent, and what people you want to talk to the most. It will adapt to your needs and become more than just a module for voice commands," and, "... Assistant will be able to transcribe your texts and perform web searches, much like Google’s Android OS. Assistant will utilize Nuance’s advance voice-recognition technology to accomplish these tasks."

Siri co-founder Norman Winarsky seems to believe that Apple's announcement of Assistant will be a "world-changing event" that will not only alter the way we interact with our mobile devices, but even personal computing as a whole. He goes on to call it "another technology revolution" and a "new computing paradigm." Seems like expectations for Assistant are already pretty high.

So will Apple do it again? They have already revolutionized the mobile world twice. First, with the adoption and popularization of capacitive touchscreens, and again with the App Store. Will the announcement of voice commands paired with artificial intelligence be yet another day for the history books for the Cupertino-based company? I have my doubts.

I've also heard floating rumors of Assistant being integrated with Wolfram Alpha (I'm a huge fan of Wolfram) and other non-native features. If Assistant can interact with third-party features and truly bring an AI experience to mobile, I'll definitely be on board. But if it comes locked down and limited, in typical Apple fashion, Apple may miss a very important mark with Assistant.

I have no doubt that Apple has a gold mine on their hands right now, as they should. They paid a pretty penny for it. A pocket-sized concierge service does seem rather awesome. But how willing are people going to be to talk to their phones and utilize these voice commands? Personally, I've never used voice commands (outside of testing) in all of my days with Android. "Talking" to a phone is just too abstract and inelegant for many of us. Not to mention, both my accent and voice are ... well, different and I've found it hard to actually get desired results in the first three or 30 tries. Will we face similar problems with Assistant? Will it be enough to overcast the unprecedented hype for the iPhone 5?

It's quite impossible to say at this point. Whether it be hardware or software or both, it seems like Apple has something big up their sleeve for today. We'll know exactly what it is in just 10 more hours, so hang tight.

What do you guys and gals think? Will Assistant be the highlight of the show later today? Will it revolutionize the mobile and personal computing realms? Or is Assistant just a gimmicky feature that we'll only use to show off to friends?

Image via Wired