Iris created in eight hours to challenge Siri

Apple's Siri 'intelligent assistant' is doubtless impressive, but as the flagship feature of a new iPhone that's been in development since the company bought Siri Assistant's creator back in 2010 you would expect that. Iris, having had a whole eight hours of development time, is rather more impressive.

Created during a hack day by staff at Dexetra, Iris - "Intelligent Rival Imitator of Siri" - is an unapologetic nod at Apple's wise-cracking artificial-artificial-intelligence. Unlike the latest incarnation of Siri, however, you don't need a new phone in order to use it.

"When we started seeing results, everyone got excited and started a high speed coding race. In no time, we added voice input, text-to-speech, also a lot of heuristic humour into Iris," writes Narayan Babu of his company's project.

"Quickly, I created a decent layout and design, and we added all shiny little things to Iris, and what came out was a really good app - for an 8 hours effort that is."

There's no denying that Iris is impressive: tying in to Google's own speech recognition system and the native Android text-to-speech system, it reproduces the basic functionality of Siri well. You can ask it serious questions - at which point it searches the web for answers - or more sarcastic queries to generate an amusing response.

Telling Iris to "open the pod bay doors," for example - a request of the murderous artificial intelligence HAL in the film 2001: A Space Oddessy - returns: "I can't. I'm at the office right now."

Iris is no Siri: it lacks the deep integration that Apple brought to the table when it purchased Siri back in 2010 to turn the app from a stand-alone package for any iOS device into the flagship feature exclusive to the iPhone 4S. As a result, you can't set alarms, edit your schedule, or read and reply to messages.

For a project which took eight hours to complete, however, it's impressive - and is likely to get better over time, should Dexetra continue its development.

Iris isn't the only voice assistant for Android, either: while it's the most Siri-like, existing apps like Vlingo and Speaktoit have been offering voice-activated control for quite some time - and Vlingo in particular is pleased with Apple's Siri, given that in the days since the iPhone 4S launched the company has seen downloads of its Vlingo Assistant for Android and BlackBerry more than double.

The alpha release of Iris is available to download now from the Android Market.