Apple’s voice assistant Siri is now smart enough to work without an internet connection for many requests. In addition, the company is expanding Siri to third-party smart home devices.
At WWDC, Apple announced it upgraded the voice assistant with “on-device speech recognition.” This means your voice commands are processed by default on an iPhone or iPad, without sending the data to Apple’s servers.
“This addresses the biggest privacy concern we hear from voice assistants, which is unwanted audio recordings,” said Erik Neuenschwander, Apple’s director of user privacy.
In 2019, Cupertino halted a program that allowed company contractors to listen to Siri-made voice recordings, which included personal details from users. Apple later resumed the program, but the company will only let an employee review an audio sample of a Siri request if you’ve opted into the “Siri grading program.”
To demo the on-device speech recognition, Apple showed you can use Siri to launch apps, change settings, and control music on an iPhone without an internet connection. Siri will be able to understand and execute commands, such as open Calendar and activate Airplane mode, within seconds.
The company didn’t mention which iPhone and iPad models will support the on-device speech recognition. But the technology relies on the device’s “neural engine,” which the company debuted in the A11 processor found in the iPhone 8.
The other big change to Siri is how Apple is opening the voice assistant to third-party manufacturers through the iOS 15 update.
“We believe Siri is most powerful when it’s available throughout your house,” said Apple senior engineer Yah Cason. “For the first time, HomeKit accessory makers can enable Siri in their products. So you’ll be able to talk to Siri on even more devices.”
As an example, the company showed a thermostat with Siri built in. The voice processing will also occur on-device, so no data will be transferred to external servers. The first third-party accessories featuring Siri will arrive later this year.