Siri, Texas Ranger

In the 1967 classic film “Cool Hand Luke,” one of the main characters, the Captain, utters one of the most classic lines in cinema: “What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate.”

It’s a phrase that lends itself well to a number of circumstances. Like Apple’s Siri.

Siri, the voice-activated digital assistant on the iPhone 4S, was last summer’s must-have smartphone feature. This summer? Not so much. To back up this claim, see what the New York Times had to say about Siri last summer compared to this summer.

Last year, the Times’ David Pogue was clearly taken with Siri’s responses to certain questions. His headline: Siri Is One Funny Lady.

“If you don’t laugh at some of Siri’s responses, there’s something wrong with your funnybone,” Pogue wrote then, in response to these tidbits:

You: “I need to hide a body.”

Siri: “What kind of place are you looking for?”

Siri then offers you a list of choices like Reservoirs, Metal Foundries, Mines, Dumps and Swamps.

You: “Who’s your daddy?”

Siri: “You are. Can we get back to work now?”

You: “Open the pod bay doors.”

Siri: “I’m sorry, Joshua. I’m afraid I can’t do that.”

Sure, the responses were funny the first time, but as time wore on and the benefits of Siri waned, the dynamic with Siri also changed. There was a failure to communicate. Just see how the Times switched up its tune.

Last month’s headline: With Apple’s Siri, a Romance Gone Sour

Writer Nick Bilton chronicled how things went south between him and Siri.

“We met at an Apple product announcement in Cupertino, Calif. She was helpful, smart and even funny, cracking sarcastic jokes and making me laugh. What more could a guy ask for?

“Since then, we have had some major communication issues. She frequently misunderstands what I’m saying. Sometimes she is just unavailable. Often, she responds with the same, repetitive statement.”

Funny, but true.

With the next iPhone release expected somewhere in the near future, let’s hope one of the improvements made to the otherwise stellar device involves Siri. After all, she was released as a beta, meaning there were bugs to be worked out and a conceded room for improvement. She could use a bit of an upgrade.

But before I write her off completely, I figured I’d ask a few questions not so much for their humorous aspect, but in the event you find yourself in a do-or-die, “Walker, Texas Ranger” style situation. Walker, if you remember, was a character played by Chuck Norris who somehow always found himself battling it out with an assortment of Japanese gangs or corrupt parole officers.

Me: “How do you untie knots?”

Siri: “Checking on that for you. How about a Web search for ‘How do you untie knots?’”

Google pointed me to a climbing site and a YouTube video on how to untie a square knot. At least she understood the question.

Me: “How do you unlock a trunk from the inside?”

Siri: “Hmmm. Let me think. How about a Web search?”

A Web search turned up a helpful wikihow page titled “7 Tips on How to Escape From the Trunk of a Car.”

Walker would be impressed. I’m sure he would’ve benefited from having Siri as a sidekick. Which isn’t a bad idea if this voice-activated digital assistant gig doesn’t work out. Siri could always help Chuck Norris battle bank robbers and prove the innocence of the wrongfully accused.

One final question.

Me: “How do you stop Chuck Norris?”

Siri, in a beautifully redeeming moment, came back with a video. That video was called “You Can’t Stop Chuck Norris.”

Smart lady.

Image Credit: Chuck Norris Action Jeans / Sarah B. Brooks / CC BY 2.0