Apple Working on Eliminating “Hey” from “Hey Siri” Wake Word: Report
Apple is working on shortening Siri’s wake word from “Hey Siri” to just “Siri,” according to a Bloomberg report. The shortened wake word would match Amazon’s Alexa for a single word and make it faster when responding to a series of requests, but is a fairly difficult engineering feat involving much retraining of the voice AI.
Though eliminating a single syllable from the wake word seems straightforward, the complexity of ensuring Siri can still understand when it is being called on in a huge variety of voices and accents makes for a far more difficult undertaking, according to the report. The extra syllable provides a lot more opportunity for the AI to judge whether or not the wake word was spoken. That’s why Amazon hasn’t needed an extra word for Alexa, and why, before it shut down, Microsoft removed the “Hey” from Cortana as a wake word without too much difficulty.
Google Assistant would face similar issues, which may be why the company has played with other ideas like Quick Phrase, commands that initiate conversations with Google Assistant without a wake word in phones and smart displays. Instead, the AI uses the Voice Match vocal identification tool to ensure the approved user is speaking. It also applies to Google’s Continued Conversation feature allowing to add additional commands to their Google Assistant orders without having to say the wake word after each individual request. The appeal of Quick phrases has even led to work on allowing users to create and set up their own custom Quick Phrases. Despite not having an additional word in its phrase, Amazon is pursuing its own plans in that regard through the Alexa Conversation Mode feature.
The deeper engineering efforts Apple needs to make for the wake word have slowed its rollout. Concerns over accidental awakenings, something that voice assistant users regularly cite as a major annoyance, plus privacy issues make for slowed development. Still, the shortened wake word is undergoing testing by Apple employees right now and could become available to the public by the end of the year or early next year.