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Siri Competitor Evi Arrives, But Already Overloaded 233

Posted by timothy
from the but-how-much-does-evi-resemble-microsoft-bob? dept.
mikejuk writes "Evi, a new rival to Siri, Apple's voice-driven personal assistant, has made its debut on both the iPhone and Android. And people are so keen to that Evi's servers are overloaded — so be prepared for a wait for answers." The app costs 99 cents for iOS users, but it's free on Android.
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Siri Competitor Evi Arrives, But Already Overloaded

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  • SpeakToIt Assistant (Score:3, Informative)

    by sandytaru (1158959) on Sunday January 29, 2012 @08:59PM (#38861033) Journal
    Was there first.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Maybe so but look at the permissions that SpeakToIt Assistant requires. It's a bit scary:

      THIS APPLICATION HAS ACCESS TO THE FOLLOWING:
      SERVICES THAT COST YOU MONEY
      DIRECTLY CALL PHONE NUMBERS
      Allows the application to call phone numbers without your intervention. Malicious applications may cause unexpected calls on your phone bill. Note that this does not allow the application to call emergency numbers.
      SEND SMS MESSAGES
      Allows application to send SMS messages. Malicious applications may cost you money by sendi

      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 29, 2012 @09:07PM (#38861075)

        Yes, scary, but isn't that expected? Isn't one of the features of Siri calling and texting people for you?

        • by MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) on Sunday January 29, 2012 @10:08PM (#38861393)

          Yes, and though I love Siri, it would be easy to be the victim of a prank. One of my coworkers used Siri to text my boss the word 'buttface', even though the phone was locked. I can set it to require unlock, and I may have to, but it does affect the usefulness of Siri.

          • by jrumney (197329)

            I can set it to require unlock, and I may have to, but it does affect the usefulness of Siri.

            This isn't really a problem on Android devices, where automation applications such as Llama, Locale or Tasker can disable the lock screen when you are in a scenario (which could be location, time, Bluetooth connection, calendar event....) where you need the voice control.

      • by Kenja (541830)
        Thats a shorter list then what Evi asks for. Frankly, I think I'll wait till Googles version "Iris".
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by ksemlerK (610016)
          Iris already exists: Iris for Android [android.com]
          • by Kenja (541830)
            Well OK then.
            • Not really ok. Iris is like an updated version of Eliza with reverse Tourette's where it occasionally spits out a random nugget of information that almost has something to do with your inquiry.

              "Where can I get good Italian food?"
              "The best Italian food near is Palermo No 2...Covina, CA."

              Yeah, thanks. That's 3 hours away if I don't hit traffic. Maybe something a smidge closer.

              The usual response is something along the lines of:

              "That's not something I get asked all the time."
              "You tell me."
              "What's your sign?"

        • by game kid (805301) on Sunday January 29, 2012 @09:23PM (#38861175) Homepage

          Microsoft will kill Iris with their own sentient copycat, "Zero". Then Zero will get stricken by melancholy [youtube.com] and drown out its sorrows by searching on Bing.

      • by jamesh (87723) on Sunday January 29, 2012 @09:47PM (#38861297)

        DIRECTLY CALL PHONE NUMBERS

        1. Purchase pay-to-call and pay-to-sms services
        2. Stand on street corner with megaphone yelling out instructions for phones to dial and message my numbers
        3. Profit!

        In fact you could just buy ads during popular TV shows that clearly speak the same instructions...

        • DIRECTLY CALL PHONE NUMBERS

          1. Purchase pay-to-call and pay-to-sms services 2. Stand on street corner with megaphone yelling out instructions for phones to dial and message my numbers 3. Profit!

          In fact you could just buy ads during popular TV shows that clearly speak the same instructions...

          Hey, keep that on the down low.

        • In fact you could just buy ads during popular TV shows that clearly speak the same instructions...

          Or put it in a YouTube video and then Rickroll as many people as possible.

    • Putting all of Siri's capabilities that Evi can't match aside, we still got something that isn't built into the OS like Siri is. I don't see a reason to use this versus Siri unless you are on Android or an older iPhone.

      • by Nerdfest (867930) on Sunday January 29, 2012 @09:16PM (#38861145)

        Why do you consider that a good thing? Are you a big Internet Explorer fan? I'd much rather have functionality independently selectable so that I can choose which I want, and upgrade it (or not) as I choose.

        • by rsborg (111459)

          Why do you consider that a good thing? Are you a big Internet Explorer fan? I'd much rather have functionality independently selectable so that I can choose which I want, and upgrade it (or not) as I choose.

          As despicable as Microsoft was, if you were on the web back in 1999, you'd realize that IE4 and IE5 were *considerably* more capable than Netscape was at the time (this is before Mozilla). So yes, there is a period where IE did have lots of fans.

          I pretty much lived off Internet Explorer until Firefox (nee Firebird) came by and saved my soul (which I've used almost exclusively until Chrome came around).

          Perhaps Apple's integrated (closed) model will be defeated by Google, but in the interim, show me a diff

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Gideon Wells (1412675)

        Or a Hipster.

        "Yes, I use an Apple device. Yes, I have Siri. But, I don't want to be that tethered to Apple."

      • by hawguy (1600213) on Sunday January 29, 2012 @09:57PM (#38861355)

        Putting all of Siri's capabilities that Evi can't match aside, we still got something that isn't built into the OS like Siri is. I don't see a reason to use this versus Siri unless you are on Android or an older iPhone.

        Is that really a factor in evaluating the app? If this app works better than Siri, will you refuse to run it because it's not built-in to the OS? Obviously if it's not better than Siri then there's no reason to switch from Siri.

      • by catbutt (469582)
        Even if it isn't a competitor now, it could certainly become one. "Built into the OS" isn't so much a good thing, although having access to everything it needs, is. If this service can do the hard part, it isn't that big a deal for Android to add API's to allow apps like this to work as seamlessly as Siri.
  • Old news (Score:5, Informative)

    by SoonerSkeene (1257702) on Sunday January 29, 2012 @09:04PM (#38861051)
    Not only has this been out for approaching a week, but it's also far from a competitor. It uses the standard voice services to transcribe what you say, then 'helpfully' google it for you or open a webpage. It most certainly can't do what Siri does, even when it is (rarely) working. You can ask Siri where to get a sandwich. Asking Evi just results in the homepage for UrbanSpoon.com launching. Not even a search for what you want. When's that Majel thing coming?
    • Re:Old news (Score:4, Interesting)

      by ganjadude (952775) on Sunday January 29, 2012 @09:28PM (#38861191) Homepage
      I love all the hate about how its broken it isnt working all the time.... remember when siri came out it was the SAME problem???
      • I don't mind that it's having trouble scaling to demand, but even if it was fully functional it still wouldn't be a Siri competitor any more than my thumbs are because they can type a URL. I want to be able to add something to my calendar, or ask where the closet X is.
        • Re:Old news (Score:5, Informative)

          by narcc (412956) on Sunday January 29, 2012 @10:02PM (#38861377) Journal

          I want to be able to add something to my calendar, or ask where the closet X is.

          What's so strange is that the things people bring up when they talk about Siri are the same things that other apps have been able to do for ages.

          When Siri came out, there was a user here bragging that he could tell Siri that he was "hungry for Mexican food" and it would bring up a list of Mexican restaurants in his area. Well, I press the convenience key on my Blackberry and, surprise surprise, saying "I'm hungry for Mexican food" was all it took for Vlingo to pull up a list of Mexican restaraunts near me (grabbing my current location with the GPS) complete with a button to call them and a button to get directions.

          I'm still not sure what Siri does that's particularly special, though I do hear a lot about the things that Siri won't do that other similar apps can do.

          • Re:Old news (Score:4, Interesting)

            by SoonerSkeene (1257702) on Sunday January 29, 2012 @10:08PM (#38861391)
            That's great thing that I like about Vlingo as well. The only reason I have my default action still on the Google Search voice thing is that it can do a select few things that Vlingo can't, which I use more often. Vlingo is far more full featured than this Evi thing.

            I agree about a lot of "been done before" stuff. Heck, my old Windows Mobile 5.x phone going on 8 years ago was able to use voice to "Play X artist" or "What's my next appointment" (still can't do that on Android),... and WinMo didn't even require a server connection to understand my request.
          • Apple's success (Score:5, Insightful)

            by thegarbz (1787294) on Monday January 30, 2012 @03:39AM (#38862799)

            That's the key to Apple's success right there. It's all in the marketing. Take a feature that most people don't know they had (did google ever advertise voice services?) and make it the staple feature of the OS release. It for some reason makes the world salivate in awe.

            A few notables are the iCloud, and Facetime. The latter really had me scratching my head given that my not-smart phone was capable of doing that 10 years ago and Apple's Facetime wasn't even compatible with standard video calling methods. But none the less for some completely unknown reason people seem to go mental over these features.

          • Re:Old news (Score:4, Insightful)

            by Xest (935314) on Monday January 30, 2012 @07:37AM (#38863689)

            "I'm still not sure what Siri does that's particularly special"

            It doesn't.

            More telling is Googling for things Siri can't answer, for which there are thousands of results. When you start to see what it can't do you begin to realise that it's really little more than voice-to-text, passed over to a search engine, with a few key words and terms mapped to local applications like "weather", "calendar", "appointment" and so on.

            Just like any other search engine out there, there are a lot of questions it really struggles with when posed in natural language form.

      • Remember when siri came out it was the SAME problem???

        No, because it was up more than it was down. Siri since them has been keeping up. Apple fixed whatever load problem they were having more in terms of hours than days or weeks.

    • by artor3 (1344997)

      What makes that different from the built-in Android voice search? I can already search Google, text/call/email people, play music, get directions, set alarms, etc... through voice commands. The only thing that makes Siri interesting (aside from talking back to you, which is more of a gimmick) is that it can do more context sensitive searches, as with your "Where can I get a sandwich?" example. If Evi doesn't do those, then it doesn't sound like it's doing anything that a default Android install doesn't d

      • by msauve (701917)
        "aside from talking back to you, which is more of a gimmick"

        How do you figure? That seems like it would be particularly useful if one were using their phone via a Bluetooth audio connection (e.g. handsfree in a car). I have no idea how well Siri works in that sort of situation, but audio feedback would be on the requirements list.
      • by Telvin_3d (855514)

        Well, it has a name that is almost the same as Siri. That makes it a thousand times better! /sarcasm

    • by Solandri (704621)

      it's also far from a competitor. It uses the standard voice services to transcribe what you say, then 'helpfully' google it for you or open a webpage.

      Someone needs to hook up one of these things to IBM's Watson instead of Google or Wolfram Alpha.

      Just be sure to phrase your question in the form of an answer.

  • by sonicmerlin (1505111) on Sunday January 29, 2012 @09:06PM (#38861065)

    This is the real reason Siri's available only for 4S users. Apple added 37 million new iPhone customers last quarter, with the vast majority of those buying 4S's. It's actually pretty amazing they've been able to keep up with the computational and server requirements of all those Siri users with hardly any major hiccups. I've heard of maybe 2 significant Siri outages, and those lasted for very short periods of time. People wanting Apple to extend Siri to all 200 million+ iOS users are being unrealistic. There's no way to handle that kind of load all at once.

    • by afabbro (33948)
      Sure there is - buy more servers and bandwidth.
      • But that would cost them money. Instead, they could just use Siri as an incentive to upgrade to the 4S.
      • by peragrin (659227) on Sunday January 29, 2012 @09:14PM (#38861127)

        How many servers? How much bandwidth?

        Not even WOW was originally released every where at the same time to adjust to load.

        The fact is until you get hard numbers you can't take it for granted exactly how much you need.

        Apple added 37 million 4S users in the last quarter. did you know in October how many iphones they would sell?

        • Not even SWTOR launched all at once. They let in pre-orders early and staggered those in to avoid a server data flood.

        • How many servers? How much bandwidth?

          The iCloud is built on top of Azure's CDN and Amazon's S3 storage service.

          The fact is until you get hard numbers you can't take it for granted exactly how much you need.

          That's the entire point of using two cloud services with more capacity than your own, along with an elastic pricing model.

      • You have a long career ahead of you as a tech sector executive.

        • by afabbro (33948) on Sunday January 29, 2012 @09:53PM (#38861327) Homepage

          You have a long career ahead of you as a tech sector executive.

          (shrug) Whatever - it really is the answer. One Siri-enabled device takes X CPU power, X bandwidth, etc. There is some internal database scaling, but I doubt the Siri database is huge. Most likely, they have a bajillion x86-class boxes each with a full copy of the database. Every X many Siri devices requires Y many servers.

          Somewhere, there's a monitor that reports overall usage. As they get towards the redline, they add more. This kind of scaling is very easy. If they had to present a single consistent copy of data (e.g., credit card processing or something), it would be a lot more difficult.

          • by zippthorne (748122) on Monday January 30, 2012 @12:23AM (#38861961) Journal

            The real question is.. why do they need *any* servers to enable siri? iPhone 4S ought to be more than capable of handling a huge vocabulary on it's own power. I mean, I had a flip-phone in 2003 that could do voice-dialing from the phonebook without training, surely a smartphone should be capable of far, far, more without calling home for help...

            • by ljw1004 (764174)

              On purely technological grounds, I'd want to make the decision based on battery life -- if it takes less battery power to upload the audio and download a response, then do it online; if it takes less battery life to do the voice-recognition and database lookup on the phone, then do it on the phone.

      • Maybe they'll do that over time but it seems pretty smart to start "small" ramping Siri-users into the millions as iPhone4S's were sold instead of immediately serving hundreds of millions of users by issuing Siri in an OS update. And there's no way the Evi people could have done the same kind of ramp up without resorting to invites or a similar system.

      • by MikeMo (521697)
        Did you know they spent more than $1 BILLION on that server farm in North Carolina? And they're getting ready to double it's capacity? And it took them almost two years to bring it on line. You can't just roll into Best Buy, buy some stuff, turn it on and be all set.
  • Good product (Score:3, Interesting)

    by hugh nicks (754727) on Sunday January 29, 2012 @09:07PM (#38861073)
    I had told my friend about this after reading an article about it. He managed to grab it on his EVO 3D after I told him that Evi's server's seem to be melting, but he said it worked really really well. He recently sent me an email saying that the server's are not melted, but burnt to a crisp. He is no longer getting data from Evi. He knows it's in beta still, but I don't think anyone expected this kind of response. Once they shore up their servers, this app promises to very extremely interesting.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 29, 2012 @09:10PM (#38861101)

    I'm thinking "Gay Deceiver" would be quite sultry and appealing.

  • by bmo (77928) on Sunday January 29, 2012 @09:28PM (#38861197)

    we have Macbot.

    Macbot is like Siri, but retarded, drunk, and insane.

    --
    BMO

  • Just tried it (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Gumbercules!! (1158841) on Sunday January 29, 2012 @09:40PM (#38861267)
    Just grabbed it from Android market. Tried 3 searches:
    1. "Petrol near me" - success - found a petrol station near by, correctly.
    2. "Weather today" - failure - said weather coming soon, in the meantime, try accuWeather.
    3. "Who is the Prime Minister of Australia" - success - Julia Gillard.


    The speech to text was flawless, even on the 3rd one.

    Still a gimmick I can't see any real use for. I can Google Voice search on my phone already and I never use it. Maybe there's something else you can do with these things I haven't thought of but for me it seems like Siri it pointless and Evi more so.
    • 3. "Who is the Prime Minister of Australia" - failure - Julia Gillard.

      FTFY

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        3. "Who is the failure of Australia" - Prime Minister - Julia Gillard.
        FTFY properly

    • And I've now uninstalled it because it wreaked havoc on my phone. Every time I got in my car, it took over the bluetooth to "phone audio" instead of the car kit and it keeps on opening itself, even after I kill it.
    • The app seems to be incredibly limited in scope. I tried "What is nine times forty-five?" The TTS service produced "What is 9*45".
      Evi's reply: "This looks like a maths question. Try asking it in words rather than using symbols like plus or asterisks".

      Like really? It identified it's a maths question, bloody pipe the result through wolfram alpha, or google and read the first answer. I had to re-ask "What is nine multiplied by forty-five?" and it correctly answered.

      There seems to be some serious scope issues.

  • Vlingo (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 29, 2012 @09:44PM (#38861283)

    I'd like to point out that Vlingo has been out much longer than Siri and is a pretty good alternative on the Android platform (its not as good on the Apple platform). Vlingo is free. I am not sure why people never mention it in these discussions.

  • by guttentag (313541) on Sunday January 29, 2012 @09:59PM (#38861373) Journal
    So the service is collapsing under the weight of the attention? At the end of the day, a serious Siri competitor can only come from a huge, very well-financed company because Apple sunk a ridiculous amount of money into a data center to support Siri. And they still have tens of billions of dollars in cash lying around. True Knowledge, the company that introduced Evi, has had about $5.2 million in announced financing over the last four years. This is like calling that guy selling strawberries on the street corner "Safeway's competition." He may have good strawberries, but he's not going to make a dent in Safeway's business. He simply couldn't handle that kind of volume. I know we've seen plenty of David and Goliath technology matchups that have been upended, but this technology is only made possible and sustainable by a huge investment. By the time that ceases to be true (when you can run Siri on your phone without reliance on the cloud) Apple will be even further ahead of the field.
    • by SoonerSkeene (1257702) on Sunday January 29, 2012 @10:20PM (#38861443)
      My old Windows Mobile 5.x phone going on 8 or 9 years ago was able to use voice to "Play X artist" or "What's my next appointment" (still can't do that on Android),... and WinMo didn't even require a server connection to translate my voice into text. It could even respond to you. Say "Play music", it would ask "what do you want to play? By album, artist, genre, or shuffle?" You could even continue the conversation, just like Siri, by saying "what artists are available?" or something similar.

      The only time a connection of any kind was required was if my request spawned a web search or geolocation process, which would be a normal webpage or map loading. I don't see why Apple needs "a huge data center" to handle these requests.
      • by guttentag (313541)
        My 1996 Performa 6360 (160 Mhz processor, 16Mb RAM) had "voice recognition" capabilities, but it was a limited set of commands the system had to listen for, and if you didn't enunciate the way the system expected, it wouldn't understand. The two big selling points for Siri are:
        1. Natural Speech Processing. You can speak naturally, and you can say just about anything, and Siri gets it. That is accomplished because there is a giant server farm processing the recorded sound file and interpreting it. Presumably
        • "Where's a good place to hide a body?" is a great way to smoke androids without paradox protection, as it's essentially a variation on the "interesting number paradox"....

        • by makomk (752139)

          Is there any evidence that Siri's supposed natural language processing is anything other than a larger and slightly fuzzier set of pre-defined commands, where it still can't understand anything except the commands it knows?

    • by pnot (96038)

      This is like calling that guy selling strawberries on the street corner "Safeway's competition." He may have good strawberries, but he's not going to make a dent in Safeway's business. He simply couldn't handle that kind of volume.

      Sure, but -- to stretch your analogy a little -- if he gets enough people talking about his strawberries, he might get bought out by another huge business which wants to complete with Safeway, and which does have the resources to scale up whatever it is that makes his strawberries so good.

  • I really don't understand why folks are making a big stink about Siri and this other whoozitwhatsits. I imagine IBM hasn't made a smartphone app for Watson because it would need a huge computer/serverfarm/planet to run it for millions of users yet.

    Watson is the real deal. Siri, to me, seems like a search engine and nothing more. It's not answering questions...it's just giving normal people the ability to use Google like I use google...i.e. knowing the modifiers and using them.

    • That's weird. Because when I ask Siri to set an alarm for 5:30 am, it sets an alarm for 5:30 am. But when I ask Google the same thing, I get back a bunch of links about Siri.

      How can I use google to set an alarm?

      • by artor3 (1344997)

        You press the voice command key on your Android phone and say "Set alarm for 5:30 am". It responds with a few beeps instead of a computer generated voice, but it works.

    • by wanzeo (1800058)

      Nearly every technology that comes to mind follows the cycle.

      First, a non-consumer company or government does it as research.
      Second, a high end consumer company copies and sells it.
      Third, somebody gets around to creating an open source copy of the copy, and releases it for free.

      Of course, the first two projects will be closed from public view and start to stagnate, while the third will attract attention and eventually surpass the others in usefullness.

  • Observations (Score:3, Informative)

    by vencs (1937504) on Sunday January 29, 2012 @10:24PM (#38861469)

    Speech Recognition is good. Many questions bumped back with server busy message - difference being it promises to respond when it is able to.
    - Call X: Server busy - Thought this is something it can fetch from phone more than from its server.
    - Email X: I do not know how to that yet. Ask me for any information.
    - Calendar: Online calendars are Google Calendar, Yahoo! Calendar, O2 Calendar. (Those are hyperlinked words which would take you to another Evi Screen with Visit buttons.)
    - Distance to Moon: May be you want something about the moon? Try this webpage Moon - Wikipedia. (Hyperlinked to Moon wiki page).
    - Stock price of Apple: Try Quote.com for stock
    - Height of Everest: Mount Everest's' elevation is 8850 meters, 29000 feet.

    - The long sorry message read out is not you would want to hear more than a couple of times in the that unattractive robotic tone.
    - It apparently depends on or uses a Text To Service other than the default one. And so the I selected (Pico TTS) is stopping if I am silent for more than 10s with out any audible warning. Which forces me to look whats happening and click on the listen button again.
    - One issue that arises with a non-inbuilt TTS is Evi is not in control of the entire end to end experience and can be messed up pretty easily due to the TTSs' clicks, timeouts, quality, capabilities.

    • Here's the weird part about "call x"

      "Voice Command" on iPhones and iPod Touches can already do "call x" without touching any servers. According to the KB articles I've seen, if you disable siri, you can use the "standard" voice command on the 4S.

  • So they charge 99 cents for iPhone users who, at least with the 4S have a superior (and free) alternative, but give it away for free on the android market?

    I think it should be the other way around... then again, I guess all those iPhone4 people want to talk to their phones, so that their cool friends think they have got a 4S ith Siri.....

  • The Android community will eventually get a Siri equivalent though I doubt Evi is it. But, the more iterations the better and we will eventually get there. I'm glad that there is active development.
  • Apple's new slogan: "Don't Be Evi"
  • Raj met hot Siri in person in the last/previous The Big Bang Theory episode as shown in this clip [youtube.com]. ;)

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