BBC Siri

Siri Corrects Weatherman Live on Television

Siri decided to offer its own take on the weather to BBC meteorologist Tomasz Schafernaker while he was on the air. The voice assistant contradicted Schafernaker while he was live on the air in a perfectly timed reminder of the quirks of voice and AI technology.

Weather Disagreements

Schafernaker was wearing an Apple Watch while discussing the weather, specifically the snowstorm in Minneapolis. In the middle of his report, Siri loudly proclaimed that snow was not in fact inbound. Schafernaker attempted to gloss over the disagreement with his voice assistant, but his co-host found the moment far too funny to not highlight for a minute or two, saying that he thought there was snow in the forecast after Siri’s comment.

“Yeah but it probably doesn’t know what place I’m talking about,” Schafernaker responded.

The meteorologist eventually admitted that he should not have worn an Apple Watch during his segment. Afterward, Schafernaker took to Twitter to make the point that Siri had activated and spoken up without him deliberately awakening the voice assistant with the deliberate use of the ‘Hey Siri’ wake word. While the awakening was accidental, it likely didn’t happen for no reason. Either someone in the studio may have said ‘Hey Siri’ or something similar at just the right moment or the gesture Schafernaker  made when he raised his wrist to point at the screen may have activated Siri. The sleeve of his shirt may even have pressed the button on the Apple Watch long enough to awaken the voice assistant.

Accidental Awakenings

Voice assistants are awoken by mistake all of the time, if rarely in as spectacular a manner as this weatherman experienced. A  2018 Voicebot survey found that 28.5 percent of smart speaker users have noticed false wake-ups at least once a day, and 43.7 percent at least once per month. Normally, this just requires telling the voice assistant to stop listening, but it can be annoying even if it isn’t on live television.

The bigger problem is how those accidental recordings affect user privacy. This summer saw Apple and other voice assistant developers all face scrutiny over their quality control and improvement practices, particularly the use of contractors to listen to snippets of audio. Accidental recordings meant that contractors heard sounds and conversations people did not realize were being recorded. Apple eventually apologized and changed its program for Siri to leave out contractors altogether. That’s not much help for TV personalities getting contradicted by their voice assistants, but at least it shows Siri understood the bigger topic under discussion, even if it got the geography and timing all wrong.


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