Early demo of Siri third-party app integration finds feature useful, vital to system's evolution

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Ahead of an expected iOS 10 launch in September, The Wall Street Journal was able to test out Siri's ability to integrate with third-party apps, finding the feature a useful and perhaps necessary next step in the virtual assistant's evolution.

With iOS 10, Apple is allowing developers to tap into Siri APIs for the first time, allowing users to interact with a variety of third-party apps using only their voice. Demonstrated onstage at this year's Worldwide Developers Conference, Siri integration promises a world of possibilities, including sending chats messages through WeChat, making payments, hailing an Uber and more.

The WSJ spent some hands-on time with a few key apps involving mobile payments, image search and messaging, offering the first real-world look at integrations slated to arrive when iOS 10 debuts next month.

Calling it a "long-overdue feature," the publication said asking Siri to perform common operations was on average faster than opening the app and completing the task manually. Much like Apple's WWDC demonstration, the integrated apps evaluated by the WSJ often relied on customized cards that show up in the Siri user interface.

For example, the request, "Siri, send Catherine $20 for lunch with Cash" triggers a Square Cash card to appear, complete with Touch ID verification module. In another example, saying, "Hey Siri, send Jim Gonzalez a message in LinkedIn" invokes a LinkedIn card and sends out a direct message.

"Siri needed this," said WSJ reporter Nathan Olivarez-Giles. "Since 2011, we've been able to use Apple's assistant to check the weather, dial a phone number and get sports scores. It's novel, but not imperative. This wasn't the computing Holy Grail we've dreamed about since the earliest episodes of 'Star Trek.'"

Moving closer to that goal, Siri can now parse more complex word strings like, "Siri, show me photos of what Kanye West wore to the VMA awards this year in Looklive," a command that surfaced photos of Kanye's outfit with links to purchase certain items. Apple recently revealed Siri migrated to a machine learning neural net system in 2014, a move that aids in processing difficult commands.

According to the report, a number of apps are primed to debut Siri integration this fall, including chat platforms from LinkedIn, WhatsApp, WeChat and Slack, payments solutions from Square Cash and Monzo, and photo search tools from Pinterest, Vogue Runway, Looklive, The Roll and Pikazo.