Apple makes Siri more powerful

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Apple makes Siri more powerful

Machine learning capabilities aim to close gap with rivals.

Apple has rolled out new Siri capabilities to better integrate the voice-activated assistant across devices, in the face of stiff competition from rival offerings like Google's helper and Amazon's Alexa.

Analysts and investors were watching Apple's annual developers conference today for signs of what the company's next blockbuster product might be a decade after the introduction of its iPhone.

Apple said Siri will now be able to create appointments on an iPhone after an appointment is booked on a Mac, for example, marking the first time that privacy-conscious Apple has let the assistant work across devices.

"You're dealing with one Siri," said Apple software chief Craig Federighi. "But of course this is kept completely private, readable only by you and your devices."

Improvements to Siri's machine learning capabilities mean it can make a calendar event based on something you searched in Safari, Apple said. The same technology helps Siri learn how to replicate how people speak, Federighi said.

The digital assistant will work with a much wider selection of apps starting with iOS 11, due out later this year, and has a new male voice option and icon.

Apple also introduced the HomePod speaker to compete with Amazon's Alexa assistant and Echo devices, for users who prefer voice-operated systems for shopping, planning and other tasks.

Siri will be integrated into the US$349 speaker, and will make music recommendations that pair with the company's Apple Music service, send text messages, check news and sports scores, and control home gadgets like lightbulbs and thermostats.

Apple will begin shipping the HomePod to the United States, Britain and Australia in December.

Apple also offered some hints about new capabilities in the next iPhone, including augmented reality.

New indoor maps of areas like malls and airports indicated that Apple might be laying groundwork to display information over images of those places in the future.

The company rolled out new tools for developers to create augmented reality applications for iPhones and iPads. To show the tools off, Apple invited Wingnut AR, the company formed by "Lord of the Rings" director Peter Jackson, on stage.

Taking direct aim at services like PayPal, Apple debuted peer-to-peer payments for Apple Pay in which users will be able to send money through the Messages app on iPhones. That money can immediately be used in retail stores that take Apple Pay or can be moved to a bank account.

 

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