Use Siri to compare and explore items at Best Buy

Wed, Dec 28, 2011


One of the smarter things Apple did when it integrated Siri into the iPhone 4S was to limit its functionality. Indeed, Siri as we know it today is a lot less powerful than its original incarnation as an iPhone app. While this may initially seem like a backwards move on Apple’s part, it actually works to their advantage insofar as it makes more strategic sense to put out a version of Siri that does a few things really well as opposed to a version of Siri that can handle all sorts of commands, yet leaves much to be desired in the process.

Consequently, Siri avoids becoming the butt of a joke a’la the Newton, and instead, becomes a service that users can rely on. Once that trust is established, Apple can methodically roll out updates to Siri to not only enhance its usability but add additional databases it can tap into. Indeed, the uproar over the Siri/abortion saga was completely blown out of proportion by attention seeking groups who failed to relize that Siri is only as good as the databases it can tap into. And besides, it’s not as if locations like Planned Parenthood advertise themselves as ‘abortion clinics’ in the first place.

In any event, Siri last week was given some additional functionality that should make fans of consumer electronics happy. Wolfram|Alpha, the analytical search engine Apple utilizes in Siri, can now tap into Best Buy’s API’s, enabling users to browse through Best Buy’s large selection of consumer electronics and appliance devices.

Combining our natural-language interface with data from Best Buy’s public APIs also allows users to do more intuitive searches. Renovating your kitchen and need a dishwasher that fits specific dimensions? Enter “dishwashers narrower than 25 inches” into Wolfram|Alpha to get a list of dishwashers that meet your needs. Building a new entertainment center and need to find a narrow Blu-Ray player within a specific budget? Try asking Wolfram|Alpha for the “narrowest Blu-Ray player under $100.” For bargain-hunting photographers out there, it is even possible to ask Wolfram|Alpha to find “the lightest digital camera under $100 with a pixel resolution greater than 12MP.

We’ve taken the strengths we’ve developed in math, science, and socioeconomic data and created something equally unique and useful for online shoppers. Type in the name of a product category—”dishwashers” or “tablet computers,” for example—and Wolfram|Alpha generates a comprehensive, custom analysis. What are the typical dimensions and other physical characteristics of other products in this class? How common is a given product feature? Wolfram|Alpha helps you to answer these questions.

Note though that the added functionality is the result of a deal struck between Wolfram|Alpha and Best Buy, not Apple. But still, it illustrates that the full potential of Siri has yet to be unleashed.

via Wolfram Alpha



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