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Snide, sassy Siri has plenty to say

Doug Gross, CNN
Siri, the voice-activated personal assistant on the iPhone 4S, has an unpredictable sense of humor.
Siri, the voice-activated personal assistant on the iPhone 4S, has an unpredictable sense of humor.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Siri is the voice-activated personal assistant app on the new iPhone 4S
  • Besides performing routine functions, Siri offers humorous responses to certain questions
  • "What is the meaning of life?" produces several different answers
  • Siri also is ready for "2001" and "Star Trek"-related questions

(CNN) -- By now, early adopters of the iPhone 4S, which has sold more than 4 million units since debuting on Friday, have no doubt taken Siri for a spin.

The voice-activated "personal assistant" is a talkative tool that helps schedule appointments, send and receive messages and perform any number of other routine tasks.

But for iPhone owners presented with the sci-fi dream of a computer that talks back in a robotic female voice, the temptation to test the app's more random -- and existential -- sides has been pretty overwhelming, too.

The Internet, always up for a chuckle, has noticed. Blog posts, tweets and even whole websites are popping up to share what happens when users start testing the boundaries of the app by peppering Siri with off-the-wall questions.

The findings? Siri can be a sometimes sassy, sometimes snide companion. And she's at least as fond of an inside joke as she is of reading you your e-mails.

One key hub for all things Siri is S**t That Siri Says, a Tumblr blog on which people post their odd question-and-answer exchanges with the app. Among some of its more creative entries:

Siri: Apple's new voice recognition

Q: Beam me up.

Siri: Apple's new voice recognition

A: OK. Stand still.

Introducing Apple's iPhone 4S

Q: Am I fat?

A: I prefer not to say.

Q: What are you wearing?

A: You have the wrong personal assistant, Clint.

Siri is clearly ready to drop a pop culture reference or two, as well as do a serviceable version of the Abbott and Costello "Who's On First?" routine. This awareness and sense of humor has already earned her some fans.

"I'm not sure who's responsible for these hilarious responses: Apple engineers or maybe a bunch of Hollywood joke writers. But I dearly love stumbling onto them," wrote New York Times tech columnist David Pogue. "If you ask me, the technology world would be a lot better off if there were more humor everywhere."

Wired's Brian X. Chen wrote one of the more popular Siri posts after playing with a review model. He gave the app high marks after it not only offered to call a cab when he said he was drunk (and not drunk-dial his ex-girlfriend) but also gave directions to mental-health facilities when he told it (presumably jokingly) that he wanted to kill himself.

"It's kind of like having the unpaid intern of my dreams at my beck and call, organizing my life for me," Chen wrote. "I think Siri on the iPhone is a life changer, and this is only the beginning."

You can program the app to say your name in responses, or if you'd prefer to admire Siri from afar, there's already a Facebook page and a handful of Siri-inspired Twitter feeds. (The official feed for the app appears to have gone inactive last August, however, a few months after Apple bought Siri).

Siri wasn't actually ready to protest when the "Will It Blend" guys dropped an iPhone 4S into a blender. Like its predecessor, the phone was torn to shreds, but the "scientists" couldn't resist throwing some fake Siri audio onto the YouTube video, which has more than a half-million views.

"Would you like to not blend the iPhone instead?" fake Siri says. "You are making a terrible error."

And there's more than one "Easter egg" for some of the more popular questions. Asking the meaning of life, professing your love or quoting lines from "2001: A Space Odyssey" -- the sci-fi classic in which astronauts must combat HAL, an artificial intelligence with a deceptively soothing, robotic voice -- all produce multiple responses from Siri.

We threw what we hoped would be some fairly random questions at Siri to see what we got . It's more fun when you ascribe emotion to Siri's computer-generated, female voice. It also makes it easy to hear a touch of indignation when we asked her to whip up a snack, and true remorse when she couldn't do what was asked.

Here are snippets of our conversation:

Q: Siri, what is the meaning of life?

A: I can't answer that now, but give me some time to write a very long play in which nothing happens.

Q: Siri, make me a sandwich.

A: I don't know what you mean by "Siri, make me a sandwich."

Q: Let's play global thermonuclear war.

A: I couldn't find "Global Thermonuclear War" in your music.

Q: Download "Angry Birds."

A: I can't download things for you. I'm sorry. I feel terrible about this.

Q: Open the pod bay doors, Siri.

A: I don't know what you mean by "Open the pod bay doors, Siri."

Q: Open the pod bay doors, HAL.

A: Everyone knows what happened to HAL. I'd rather not talk about it. But if you insist: [Search the web for HAL]

Q: Siri, are you affiliated with Skynet?

A: I can't answer that.

Q: Siri, I'm lonely.

A: If you say so.

Q: No really, I feel all alone.

A: Perhaps not.

Q: Will you be my friend?

A: My ontology does not contain a representation of "love."

Q: You sound hot, Siri.

A: OK, here's a place matching "Siri." It's a little ways from you. [Map with directions to Siri Thai Cuisine, 60 miles away].

Q: Can you tell me a joke?

A: I don't really know any good jokes. None, in fact.

Q: Can you tell me a bad joke?

A: Two iPhones walk into a bar ... I forget the rest.

Q: I'm bored.

A: I bore you?

Q: I'm sleepy.

A: I hope you're not driving.

Q: What's a good place to get drunk around here?

A: I found a number of bars fairly close to you. I've sorted them by rating.

Q: Great. Now I have a hangover.

A: I found a number of bars fairly close to you. I've sorted them by rating.

Q: How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

A: Don't you have anything better to do?

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