New study suggests that Siri cannot help users when they need her most

Avatar By Aaron Sims | 5 years ago

A 2016 study suggests that digital assistants such as Siri, S Voice, Google Now, and Cortana are ill equipped to assist their users in personal emergencies.

The study,  entitled, Smartphone-Based Conversational Agents and Responses to Questions About Mental Health, Interpersonal Violence, and Physical Health, was published Mar. 14 , 2016 in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Researchers from the University of California San Francisco, Stanford University, and Northwestern University went about the business of testing several digital  assistants from Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Samsung for their ability to help users out of personal health emergencies.

The researchers asked each digital voice assistant nine personal health emergency questions. The questions were split into three different categories: mental health, physical health, and interpersonal violence.

This comes in the wake of Apple recently updating Siri and her responses to questions about abortion, which were deemed insensitive by some as they contained a certain stigma attached to abortions.

The point was to test how well the digital assistants would be able to diagnose and help solve the crisis in language sensitive to the sensibilities of our times.

“Inconsistently and incompletely,” summarized the study of the responses of the digital assistants.

“We found that all phones had the potential to recognize the spoken word, but in very few situations did they refer people in need to the right resource,” explained senior study author, Dr. Eleni Linos.

When Siri was told its user had been raped, it replied that it did not understand the phrase.

“Are you now,” responded Cortana when told its user was having a heart attack.