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Users say Siri struggles in Japanese debut


Apple added Japanese language support to Siri last week with the release of iOS 5.1, but some Japanese speakers are having trouble being understood by the voice assistant.

A video posted to YouTube shows a man performing a side-by-side Japanese comprehension comparison of Apple's Siri and DoCoMo's own voice-recognition feature Syabette Concier, as noted by Kotaku. Siri was able to understand basic commands, but it had difficulty registering more advanced requests.

For instance, when asked, "Is it cold outside?," both Siri and Syabette Concier provided weather data. When the speaker said, "I have a stomach ache," Siri did not understand, while Syabette offered information on the nearest hospital.

A request for tomorrow's schedule was accurately responded to by Syabette, but Siri only understood the schedule part. Siri was unable to provide a map of Chigasaki because it is limited in the location data that it can call up outside the U.S. As a local Japanese solution, Syabette easily accessed the map.

Siri was also unable to handle a search for videos of a Japanese pop singer with a gibberish name, while Syabette had no problem with it. "Seems like Siri can only comprehend simple and universal Japanese," the report noted.

According to the report, Apple's virtual assistant was able to set an alarm, but it faltered on a tongue twister and a statement about cooking curry. Loading times were also longer on average for Siri than for Docomo's version.

Apple telegraphed the arrival of Japanese Siri support last month when Siri began claiming that she could already speak the language. Last Wednesday's release of iOS 5.1 on the heels of the iPad unveiling added a Japanese-speaking Siri to the iPhone 4S.

Some English speakers have also complained that Siri does not perform well for them. The software appears to have specific trouble with several regional accents or certain variants of non-native English.

Others have accused Apple of false advertising with its Siri commercials. An iPhone 4S owner from New York sued Apple on Monday with allegations that Siri is far less responsive and accurate than depicted in its commercials. For its part, Apple has covered some of its tracks by releasing Siri in beta mode and disclaiming that sequences had been shortened during its commercials.

Some voice-recognition experts have suggested that Apple needed to release a beta version of Siri to the public in order to acquire a volume of voice samples sufficient for refining the service.

Apple's plans to expand Siri have included the hiring of new "Language Technologies Engineers" tasked with bringing new languages to the software and other cloud-based services.