Apple Extends New Siri Coronavirus Questionnaire and News Features to India
Apple has added the new coronavirus-related features recently added to its Siri voice assistant in the U.S. to India. Siri will now respond to questions about how to check for COVID-19 infection and share localized news about the subject upon request.
News and Questions
If someone with a Siri-powered device asks “Hey Siri. I think I have COVID-19,” Siri will carry out a questionnaire to check if they have any of the symptoms. Those who answer yes are told they should keep a close watch on their health, call a medical provider, and avoid interacting with other people lest the infection spread. The other major update for Siri is that the voice assistant will pull up news about the coronavirus when asked specifically for it. The audio news briefs are gathered from different locations depending on where the request is made, but in India Siri uses the BBC World Service to source news.
Apple’s updates for Siri in India come just a month after they were first added in the U.S. The American version of the list of questions specifically uses the test developed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control COVID-19 to determine potential infection. It also includes links at the end of the quiz that will help connect the user with a healthcare provider remotely using apps from the Apple App Store.
Apple is not the only company adapting its voice assistant to the pandemic. Amazon integrated a similar set of features into Alexa in the U.S. and Japan, with other countries to come. In the U.S., Alexa will also use the questionnaire as a prelude to playing the public service announcement created by the CDC on smart displays and smart televisions when users ask the voice assistant to “play the CDC video.” Alexa also sings a 20-second song about washing your hands in a handful of countries. Siri and Alexa offer the self-assessment, and Google Assistant provides pandemic tips, but both Google Assistant and Alexa have removed every non-governmental voice app related to the coronavirus from their catalogs to combat misinformation and rumors about the virus.
The value of immediate, voice-based access to information about the pandemic has seen the number of AI assessments and tools balloon. Governments from India to the UK have created chatbots to answer questions about the pandemic, while volunteers from voice tech startups collate data in voice-searchable digital dashboards or collect voice samples in apps to hunt for telltale biomarkers in how people speak to determine if someone has been infected.