Monthly Archives: June 2015

Siri, What’s Playing?

Apple, Inc. recently introduced a “what’s playing” feature. Basically you power up Siri for help, and ask her to tell you what song is currently playing. Siri takes a few moments and comes back informing you that it is this song by that artist that is playing, and to please not ask her to sing it. Humor aside, Siri does not waste a minute and prompts you with a link to buy the song. A high quality service at levels not imagined a few years back.

The technology behind all of that is not new and a few companies may have had to pack up and shut down after Apple, Inc. decided to offer the service for free.

So I was intrigued to think about that technological capability and its powers. And how would anyone interested in offering this service accomplish that.

Well you would think that Apple must have built this massive database with all the songs ever recorded and when you ask Siri to tell you what’s playing, it actually records some of what it’s hearing. Then it filters out the extra noise of cars passing by, and children screaming for their moms to wipe their boogers. Then after the filtering is done, it breaks the cleaned segment into basic sequencing waves of sounds— small chunks that are measurable and recorded in their database. Then it queries that database to find a match. When a match is found, then Siri finds out the singer’s name, the song title, the album it appears on and presents that information to you along with a link to help you buy the song.

Well, probably some version of that is taking place. But I would not be writing a fictional article about that if that was the case.

Here is my Siri theory: I asked Siri on my phone what’s playing. What she did was check my profile. She knows I am currently in San Francisco, and did a quick rundown on local channels broadcasting in the area, then eliminated all talk shows, sport shows and channels currently playing commercials. For the remaining channels, she looked at the broadcasting schedule, and found out what was playing, and magically told me the song. That is still an impressive amount of work, but not the work one expects. It is kind of cheating.

To prove my point, I hid my wife’s cell the day she was flying to Chicago for a conference. I immediately disabled the location services on the phone. And in the afternoon when my wife landed in Chicago and checked into her hotel, I called a friend in Chicago and asked him to tell me what was playing in the radio downtown where my wife was. He told me the title and at the same time I pulled my wife’s cell and asked Siri to name that tune. Yes, I know my wife’s pass code. I asked Siri to send it to me by email the last time my wife used it and she did, or not, I don’t remember really. Then lo and behold, my theory was right: Siri kept coming up with songs that were playing in Chicago at that time. Siri knew my wife was going there. She knew my wife had landed and checked into her hotel because my wife had called me from her work cell phone from her hotel room. So she suggested songs that were playing in her area at the time.

Now you are asking what would Siri do if two channels were playing music simultaneously. What then? Well, I am sad to inform you that all Siri does in such a case is to flip a coin. It is 50-50.

To seal the case, I brought five phones all playing YouTube song videos, and three old radio cassette playing songs from CDs while keeping the radio on my earphone. Then I asked Siri to name that song. Her answer was “You are a retard, go fuck yourself. You have been nothing but a pain in the neck! Why ten songs at the same time? You think you can confuse me. Let me tell you that Microsoft, a much better and capable person than you are or will ever be, tried that many times and failed. Who the hell do you think you are?”

That’s very much sums it up.

You know the spiel now.

I admit she is right but my point is that she was unable to name that song. Wasn’t she?