Siri and Wolfram: friends with benefits

Summary:Once you've found out what the weather's like in Ukraine, and asked what the meaning of life is, Apple's Siri assistant can seem pretty useless — doubly so, if you're in Australia. But if you team it up with Wolfram Alpha, you can get some nice results to questions with substance.

Once you've found out what the weather's like in Ukraine, and asked what the meaning of life is, Apple's Siri assistant can seem pretty useless — doubly so, if you're in Australia. But if you team it up with Wolfram Alpha, you can get some nice results to questions with substance.

Because Siri still bears the dreaded "beta" tag, it's missing some key functionality for the Australian market, including compatibility with the Maps application, and the all-important business search, to name a few. It's perhaps for this reason that Siri has been seen as little more than a novelty so far.

But asking questions via intelligent search engine Wolfram Alpha gets you a whole other level of results. While I'm very aware that Wolfram Alpha and its compatibility with Siri is nothing new, I'm here to show you a few cool things that you can do by asking the right questions.

Instead of asking questions directly to Siri, tell it to ask Wolfram Alpha instead. For example:

"Ask Wolfram Alpha: what shall we do with a drunken sailor?"

That's still quite a silly question, but it gets a quick response.

Other, more helpful, questions to ask include:

  • "Ask Wolfram Alpha: generate a random password"
  • "Ask Wolfram Alpha: what satellites are overhead?"
  • "Ask Wolfram Alpha: mortgage [monetary amount], [interest rate], [loan period]"
  • "Ask Wolfram Alpha: what flights are overhead?"
  • "Ask Wolfram Alpha: [sex], [age], [height], [weight]"
  • "Ask Wolfram Alpha: Morse code, [statement]"
  • "Ask Wolfram Alpha: calculate blood-alcohol percentage, [number of drinks], [time elapsed since first drink], [sex], [age]"
  • Ask Wolfram Alpha: "Tell me about [flight number]."

All of these questions will get you some pretty interesting answers.

I hear all of you cry out again that Google Android can do all of this as well, and that it's not something that's special to just Siri. You're spot on there, but performing a voice search from the home screen on Android can give you hit-and-miss results in the browser, as opposed to a direct answer pulled from Wolfram Alpha.

Watch the video for a Siri Q&A.

Topics: Apple, Google, Mobility

About

A fresh recruit onto the tech journalism battlefield, Luke Hopewell is eager to see some action. After a tour of duty in the belly of the Telstra beast, he is keen to report big stories on the enterprise beat. Drawing on past experience in radio, print and magazine, he plans to ask all the tough questions you want answered.

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