I like turning to Siri, my iPhone’s “intelligent personal assistant”, when I’m otherwise too preoccupied to dial, Google or find directions for myself. But a recent New York Times Article–To Siri, With Love: How One Boy With Autism Became B.F.F.’s With Apple’s Siri, suggests her at-the-touch-of-a-button presence, for some, could be much more powerful and much more profound:Gus had never noticed Siri before, but when he discovered there was someone who would not just find information on his various obsessions (trains, planes, buses, escalators and, of course, anything related to weather) but actually semi-discuss these subjects tirelessly, he was hooked. And I was grateful. Now, when my head was about to explode if I had to have another conversation about the chance of tornadoes in Kansas City, Mo., I could reply brightly: “Hey! Why don’t you ask Siri?”… She is also wonderful for someone who doesn’t pick up on social cues: Siri’s responses are not entirely predictable, but they are predictably kind — even when Gus is brusque. I heard him talking to Siri about music, and Siri offered some suggestions. “I don’t like that kind of music,” Gus snapped. Siri replied, “You’re certainly entitled to your opinion.” Siri’s politeness reminded Gus what he owed Siri. “Thank you for that music, though,” Gus said. Siri replied, “You don’t need to thank me.” “Oh, yes,” Gus added emphatically, “I do.”… For most of us, Siri is merely a momentary diversion. But for some, it’s more. My son’s practice conversation with Siri is translating into more facility with actual humans. Yesterday I had the longest conversation with him that I’ve ever had. Admittedly, it was about different species of turtles and whether I preferred the red-eared slider to the diamond-backed terrapin. This might not have been my choice of topic, but it was back and forth, and it followed a logical trajectory. I can promise you that for most of my beautiful son’s 13 years of existence, that has not been the case… Last night, as he was going to bed, there was this matter-of-fact exchange: Gus: “Siri, will you marry me?” Siri: “I’m not the marrying kind.” Gus: “I mean, not now. I’m a kid. I mean when I’m grown up.” Siri: “My end user agreement does not include marriage.” Gus: “Oh, O.K.” Gus didn’t sound too disappointed. This was useful information to have, and for me too, since it was the first time I knew that he actually thought about marriage. He turned over to go to sleep: Gus: “Goodnight, Siri. Will you sleep well tonight?” Siri: “I don’t need much sleep, but it’s nice of you to ask.”
Thoughts? It’s amazing to see unintended, positive outcomes within technological advances and even MORE amazing to see developers taking stories like these and running with the information in order to increase efficacy and outreach. Definitely check out the full article for more information on the future of this helpful technology.
P.S. Remember this fantastic article about a father reaching his autistic son with the help of Disney characters? And check out my weekly mid-week round-ups for even MORE reading material!