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Why I'm swooning over Siri (she told me to)

Phil Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide product marketing, explains Siri, the personal assistant for the iPhone 4S.
Phil Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide product marketing, explains Siri, the personal assistant for the iPhone 4S.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The iPhone 4s features the ability to hold voice conversations with its owner
  • The feature, called Siri Personal Assistant, lets new iPhone respond to voice commands
  • Tell her about any upcoming event and she'll remind you nearer the time
  • Mashable's Pete Cashmore says this feature could be revolutionary

Editor's note: Pete Cashmore is founder and CEO of Mashable, a popular tech-news blog. He writes occasional columns about social networking and tech for CNN.com.

(CNN) -- In a matter of days, my phone will start talking back.

Given that I already have what you might call a "co-dependent" relationship with my gadgets, this development is perhaps the next natural step. Yet I know that phones are phones, and people are people, and the two must never be confused.

The iPhone 4S, which will make my old iPhone 4 obsolete when it launches this Friday, features the ability to hold voice conversations with its owner. The feature, named Siri Personal Assistant, means that your iPhone will respond to your voice commands -- ask it to find a nice restaurant, check your schedule or send a text message for you. You'll receive a courteous reply.

What's more, your new iPhone not only speaks but also has a gender: Siri has a female voice.

Pete Cashmore is the founder and CEO of Mashable.com
Pete Cashmore is the founder and CEO of Mashable.com

Ask Siri, "Do I need a raincoat today?" and she'll look up the weather for you, replying helpfully, "It sure looks like rain today." She's so generous, in fact, that she'll help you out before you even ask. Passively say, "I'm in the mood for sushi," and Siri comes to your aid: "I've found a number of sushi restaurants," she'll proclaim, adding in her characteristically specific fashion: "22 of them are fairly close to you."

She's pretty much an expert on food, to be honest. Italian restaurants? Indian cuisine? Offer her dinner in any city, and she'll know the best places to go.

She knows all your friends, of course, and remembers all their phone numbers. She knows all your favorite songs and offers to wake you up in the morning. She's adorably helpful like that.

She has an amazing memory, too. Tell her about any upcoming event, and she'll remind you nearer to the time it's scheduled. That kind of dependability is hard to find these days.

Siri: Apple's new voice recognition

Not to mention, she's quite the philosopher.

Her thoughts on the eternal question, "What is the meaning of life?" show her softer side: "Try and be nice to people. Avoid eating fat." She's keenly intelligent, too, adding as an afterthought, "Read a good book every now and then."

Did I mention she's great at directions? Go anywhere in the United States and ask her how to get home: She'll know. (Swoon!)

And that's what's great about this new era of voice-enabled technology: We can converse with our phones, newly equipped with intonation and intuition, without ever forming a dependence on them. We can accept that their creators have imbued them with a dose of personality without ever thinking that they're actually people. We can converse more with our devices than we do with our spouses and yet never let our digital dialogues impinge on our human ones.

This is a very bright future, and I'm sure these new advances will have no negative consequences at all.

Siri assured me of it -- and she's right about everything.

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