Google came under fire last night from Stephen Colbert, over a direct answer that got the comedian’s height wrong. But Apple’s Siri makes the same mistake — something Colbert didn’t raise during his video appearance at the Apple’s iPad event today.
Stephen Colbert Demands Google Apology For Getting His Height Wrong on our Marketing Land site covers Colbert’s send-up of Google on his show last night, completely with a demand for an apology from Google CEO Larry Page.
Google, he noted, lists his height as 5 foot 10 inches whereas he’s actually 5 foot 11 inches:
But Colbert — who’s well-known to love his iPhone — apparently didn’t check with Siri to see if it got his height right. Apple’s digital assistant makes the same mistake as Google:
Oops. I suppose it would have been awkward for Colbert to bring that up when he appeared by video during Apple’s iPad event this morning.
Apple’s Siri is failing for the same reason Google has — both harvest their direct answers largely through automated means, without verification.
Siri’s answer is coming from Wolfram Alpha — and over there, it’s hard to tell exactly where this particular fact came from. It’s also not the first time Apple found Wolfram Alpha giving it trouble. See our story from 2012, With Fix In Place, Wolfram Alpha Explains How Siri “Recommended” The Lumia By Mistake, for another example.
Chances are, both Google and Wolfram Alpha (and thus Siri) are using the same undisclosed source for Colbert’s height. And my guess is that this is Amazon-owned IMDB. That’s because when I asked Bing for Colbert’s height, it also got it wrong — but at least it listed the source (IMDB) from where it got the information:
Google’s mistakes, especially as it has tried to provide more direct answers this year, have gotten more attention. Some Of The Weird Issues When Google’s Quick Answers Come From Random Sources and Google Quick Answer Fail: NSFW Advice On “How To Eat Sushi” are some recent examples of this.
Of course, a recent survey also found that Google was more accurate than Siri:
I’m working on a long look at Google’s accelerated use of direct answers, but until then, here are slides from a Dreamforce talk I gave this week that will be the foundation of that article:
And here’s Colbert, going off on Google:
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