The New York TimesThe New York Times

How Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant lost the AI race

By Brian X. Chen, Nico Grant and Karen Weise

15 Mar 2023 · 6 min read

Editor's Note

Virtual assistants had more than a decade to win the hearts of consumers, the NYT reports. But the likes of Siri and Alexa were hampered by technical hurdles, leaving room for chatbots to emerge.

SAN FRANCISCO — On a rainy Tuesday in San Francisco, Apple executives took the stage in a crowded auditorium to unveil the fifth-generation iPhone. The phone, which looked identical to the previous version, had a new feature that the audience was soon buzzing about: Siri, a virtual assistant.

Scott Forstall, then Apple’s head of software, pushed an iPhone button to summon Siri and prodded it with questions. At his request, Siri checked the time in Paris (“8:16 p.m.,” Siri replied), defined the word “mitosis” (“Cell division in which the nucleus divides into nuclei containing the same number of chromosomes,” it said) and pulled up a list of 14 highly rated Greek restaurants, five of them in Palo Alto, California.

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