Are you Siri-ous? Inside Apple's Artificial Intelligence revolution

In the 2013 cinematic cautionary tale, Her, director Spike Jonze introduced us to a world where a highly advanced Artificial Intelligence – given life by the voice of Scarlett 'I-gargle-daily-with-cognac' Johansson – is available to anyone with a smartphone, regardless of the consequences.

Over the course of the movie, beginning with the familiar unboxing of a new device to the final pragmatic, yet romantic, epiphany, the protagonist ends up falling in love with his AI, Samantha, sharing with the digital individual his most secret desires in the process.

The disturbing reality is, this isn't the future and you've likely been doing this already with your iPhone.

Hey Siri

"Sometimes people don't understand the magnitude of the fact that Siri is in so many places," said Greg 'Joz' Joswiak, Vice President of Product Marketing for Apple.

"Siri is on your iPhone, your iPad, your Mac," said Joz. "Siri is on your Apple Watch, your Apple TV; Siri goes with you in your car, through CarPlay. We have over 350 million active devices that are using Siri every month. Nobody else has that type of usage of their personal assistant, and we'll continue to make it better."

Always observing, always aware

In June, at the company's annual Worldwide Developer's Conference (WWDC), Apple announced a new piece of smart hardware, HomePod – a wireless smart speaker that offers superb streaming audio capabilities as well as voice control of Siri functions.

Omnipresent Intelligence

When HomePod arrives later this year, no longer will you need to raise your Apple Watch or iPhone as you say 'Hey, Siri…' – HomePod will sit obediently in your living room, and be always on and always listening for those fateful words; a call to action to fulfil your every desire.

The first question many people ask, and one that Apple is sure to address first and foremost, is surrounding  privacy. How can HomePod search Netflix's catalogue for Pauly Shore movies and still keep my details secure and private? The answer is easier said than explained at a technical level: HomePod, or Siri, sends your request as an encrypted message to Apple, with no identifying features about you or your other devices that may be connected, like Apple TV.


Anticipating your every move

Joz explains it thus: "Your device – it's important to understand it's your device, not Apple – sees what you're doing and how you're doing it in such a way that it can use that information to help you do the next thing."

"In typical Apple fashion, we do it in such a way that totally maintains privacy and security because all this happens on your device, which gathers all this information. It's not something we're gathering and selling to other companies to help target advertising on you."

The rise of AI

Despite continued warnings from scientific brainiacs, like Stephen Hawkings, Artificial Intelligence, or machine learning, just keeps getting smarter. You're still a long way from having a digital girlfriend in your pocket (oh boy, does that thought raise all sorts of toxic masculinity flags), but the beginnings of this kind of machine 'intimacy' are a very real reality.

Even now, that little slab of metal, silicon and glass in your pocket is collecting and using almost everything you do with it, to it and for it. The theory is, that this is all in an effort to make life easier and more productive.

"It's about helping you with daily assistance. Siri won't replace the receptionist at the front of a building. But we will make your daily life better."

Keeping your most intimate or intimates secure

Like a house full of your most valuable possessions, both monetary and sentimental, your smartphone is slowly becoming a blueprint of your life.

From a simple snapshot of your daily activities to a catalogue of your one-night stands (yes, Uber has admitted it can deduce this information from abnormalities in your travels); with the right amount of coaxing, any secret, big or small, can be extracted from your precious little handset.

But whereas HomePod shrouds each request sent to Apple HQ with an encrypted and unique, one-time-only identifier, your smartphone stores every ounce of data it has on you, locally. Did you feel that little jolt of realisation?

Despite rumours Apple is working on facial scanning as a security measure for the next iPhone, the future of smartphone security might be yet a little more avant-garde.

Sealed with a kiss

Many years ago, on a night out at a hostess bar in Japan – a drinking establishment where one can engage the services of a young women to laugh at one's jokes and stir one's drinks - a Japanese scientist hit upon the idea of using a person's lips as a security measure.

After observing the lipstick kiss marks on napkins he had been collecting all night from various women at the bar were all of various size, shape and pattern, the scientist determined they were as unique as an individual's fingerprints and, therefore, could serve as a method to authenticate a person's identity.

Considering security measures like fingerprints and iris scans can be circumvented with the right equipment and a little time, it's not entirely unlikely to think that in the not-too-distant future we may all be kissing our smartphone to unlock it. Imagine that on your morning commute.