Siri is great for controlling music

2013 01 22 13.53.38 - for some reason we don't have an alt tag here

When I first got my hands on my own Siri-enabled device in the iPad mini, I played around with it a bit before more or less categorizing it in the “useless” pile. After all, it’s not exactly the brightest voice assistant out there, and I don’t even use voice control on my Android phone- where I can make it do whatever I want. 

As time has gone by though, a very specific use for Siri has crept its way into daily use for me: Controlling music. It started when I modified a pair of Bluetooth headphones a couple of weeks back, turning a pair of uncomfortable Bluetooth headphones and worn-out wired headphones into a pair of excellent sounding, ridiculously comfortable Bluetooth headphones. I decided to pair it with my iPad mini instead of my Samsung Galaxy S II phone, since Bluetooth on the S II seems to bug out every now and then, leaving me to turn it off when not in use. I just leave it turned on with the iPad mini, which means that I can grab the headphones and start playing music without ever touching the iPad. Just turn on the headphones, let it connect, and hit play on the side of the headphones.

Being able to just grab the headphones like that and have it work without even having to find the iPad itself has made me start using the headphones in situations where I wouldn’t, like for just quick housework or making dinner. Assuming you left off playing all music, you could technically just use the playback controls on the headphones to switch tracks, but sometimes you’re in the mood for something specific. That’s where Siri comes in. You can trigger Siri from a headset, meaning that both wired headphones that have a remote and most mic-enabled Bluetooth gear will be able to trigger it without pressing anything on the iOS device. For my Bluetooth headphones, holding down the Next Track button brings up Siri, routing everything through the headphones.

You can then give all sorts of commands this way, ranging from simple (but useless on remote-enabled headphones) commands like pause or next track, to more advanced commands like asking for a particular album, track, artist, or playlist. I normally either go with “play music, shuffled” or ask for specific music to be played, and for the most part, that works great. At times it surprises me how well it works, like it understanding me when I say Morrowind (with wind pronounced as you would the weather phenomenon)  despite it reading it back to me as Morrowind (with wind pronounced as you would in “wind-up toy”).

siri music fail - for some reason we don't have an alt tag hereOther times it messes up and reminds me why Siri is sometimes accidentally amusing, like when it apologized for not finding “all music shuffle” in my music library when I asked it to “play all music, shuffled.” It also seems to lack the ability to let you search for music without it being tied to a “play this”-command; asking if “do you have any music by Pink Floyd” results in “I haven’t really thought about it”, while “is there any music by Pink Floyd in the music library” returns “Sorry, Andreas, I can’t search for music. You can ask me to play something, though.” It does of course search for music when you ask it to play something specific, so how someone overlooked the ability to return this information to the user when asked for it is beyond me. It would be a great thing to have at parties, where people could just go up to the stereo, click a button, and ask to see what music was available.

Talking to your headphones is probably not something you’d like to do too much of on the bus or other public places, but it does have a use, at least for me. The whole idea of wireless music is to not have to have a device tied to the speaker or headphones, and you lose some of the advantage of that when you still need to access the device to control what’s being played back. Siri fixes that in what’s really the only practical way, by using voice commands. I’ve been considering getting a Bluetooth speaker since I started using Siri this way, simply because it’s the first time I feel that such a speaker would be independent of the device.

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Andreas Ødegård

Andreas Ødegård is more interested in aftermarket (and user created) software and hardware than chasing the latest gadgets. His day job as a teacher keeps him interested in education tech and takes up most of his time.

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