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When Siri was introduced back in early October, it was regarded as one of iPhone 4S’s greatest features. Siri, as most of you already know, is a voice-based personal assistant and a knowledge navigator that uses natural language processing to let users give it a wide variety of questions and commands in everyday language. It then taps into services like Yelp!, Google, Wolfram-Alpha and iOS system apps to give the required answer.

I’ve used Siri myself and found it a joy to play around with. Therein lies its weakest point: it is just a toy. I personally know plenty of iPhone 4S users and, for them, Siri has boiled down to a “cool to show off, but not very useful” feature. (P.S. Consider answering the poll embedded at the end!)

Siri Majel mashup

Now, Google has been reported to be looking into voice recognition and natural language processing technology to release their own Siri competitor. It has been codenamed Majel after Majel Barrett-Roddenberry, famous for voicing most computers in the Star Trek series.

In this editorial, I’ll be going through some of the features Google should include in Majel to not just compete with Siri, but to kick its virtual ass.

1) (Hyper)Awareness: With Siri, users have to press and hold the Home button or use a “Raise to Speak” technique that never really works. To make Majel a significantly “cooler” product, Google should, first and foremost, make it seamless.

The user should be able to give it a name, it should be able to recognize the user’s voice, ignoring other voices and be able to automatically start taking input as soon as the user says something like, “Alfred, what’s the weather going to be like this weekend?”. In following this method, the user won’t have to press any button or make any awkward gestures to activate it.

2) A True Personality: Siri does have character, but a true personality it is not. It always stays the same and because of this, Siri feels stiff.

nod32 mascot

(Credit: ESET)

Google can give Majel a true human-like personality so it actually grows with the user, understanding the user’s needs, character traits etc. A good example would be R2D2 from Star Wars.

3) Custom Character Packs: This, if implemented, would be my favorite feature. Imagine GLaDOS (of Portal fame) being your voice assistant. Folks who have played through both Portal games will understand just how cool this would be. If you haven’t played Portal, check this out:

Cool, huh? Now imagine HAL from the Space Odyssey series. Google would have to license the voices and characters, but I can guarantee that these character packs would sell like hotcakes.

That’s all the ideas I could cook up at the moment, I leave our active community to suggest more ideas.

For discussion on this topic: Check out the threads on Facebook or Google+.

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