2011 Siri: Apple's new voice recognition
02:13 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

Jokes about "Skynet," "2001: A Space Odyssey" flood Web after Apple introduces "Siri"

Siri is a voice-activated, artificial-intelligence app that will come with the new iPhone 4S

Some compared Siri to GlaDOS, the artificial-intelligence antagonist in "Portal" games

Siri is a female name that in Scandinavian means "victorious beauty"

CNN  — 

When Apple introduced Siri, the talking, voice-activated “personal assistant” that will come with its new iPhone 4S, the Web leaped to the obvious, rational conclusion: That it’s a sinister, potentially alien artificial intelligence that’s bound to kill us all.

“If you’re wondering, ‘Siri’ can be pronounced two ways: ‘Skynet’ and ‘GLaDOS,” wrote Twitter user @AshleyEsqueda.

That’s a reference to 1) the computer system in the “Terminator” stories that gains self-awareness and unleashes killer robots on mankind and 2) the talking, sinister artificial-intelligence system that puts players through their increasingly life-threatening paces in the “Portal” video game series.

To be sure, Siri’s coming-out party Tuesday at Apple’s Cupertino, California, headquarters seemed the stuff of science fiction.

Siri, the voice-enabled "personal assistant" on the iPhone 4S, will listen and talk back on a range of topics.

When Apple Vice President Scott Forstall asked Siri where to find a Greek restaurant in Palo Alto, a monotone female voice responded that she’d found five and had listed them for him in order of their customer-review rankings.

She told Forstall when he had a text message, read it to him, took his “dictation” to respond to it and then made a lunch date for him. “Do I have any meetings Friday at noon?” Forstall asked. “You don’t have anything on your calendar,” Siri replied.

She even knew where he was. Forstall said he could ask her to remind him to call his wife when he left work. Using global positioning, he said, Siri would see when he left Apple’s campus and speak up.

But, for anyone who’s ever pondered the inevitable rise of our digital overlords, here’s the real kicker. Forstall asks this simple, if existential, question: “Who are you?”

Siri’s answer? “I am a humble personal assistant.”

Uh huh. That’s what they all say.

“Siri may be the beginning of Skynet,” wrote Twitter user @KingJamesVrsn. “I swear, if my iPhone asks me if I am Sarah Connor…”

That wasn’t the site’s only reference to the famous scene in which Arnold Schwarzenegger, as a robot assassin, hunts for Linda Hamilton’s Connor. In fact, “Skynet” was briefly a trending topic Tuesday on the microblogging site, which tends to buzz during high-profile tech events like the Apple announcement.

“SkyNet is currently trending,” said user @jasonpinter. “This is EXACTLY what Siri wants. Siri = Schwarzenegger Irradicating Redblooded Individuals.”

Of course, some folks go for a more classic approach to menacing, monotone. Enter HAL 9000, the digital antagonist in Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey.” This being 2011 and all, HAL has his own Twitter feed and, of course, was quick to chime in.

“I think I went to school with Siri,” @HAL9000 posted. “Cute female computer but she talked too much.”

Then HAL had an apparent fit of jealousy (which cannot be a good thing).

“Siri thinks she’s so cool because she has voice recognition but can she lip read?” HAL wrote, a reference to a famous “2001” scene. “That’s the sign of a truly awesome computer.”

By the way, we’ve used “she” here to refer to Siri. Apple’s literature uses the gender-neutral “it.” We’re basing our determination on the female voice, as well as the fact that “Siri” is a female name that appears in several languages and is most often credited with having Scandinavian origins. Its meaning in the frozen northlands: “Victorious beauty.”

Plus … do we really want to make her mad?