Apple has announced a new update on its voice assistant Siri that would help disseminate information about COVID-19. The global coronavirus pandemic is taking its toll with over half a million cases now confirmed.
There are also tens of thousands of deaths and, not surprisingly, the virus has created global panic and uncertainty. The US and many other countries globally have completely shut down, asking citizens to stay home in an effort to stop the spread of this highly contagious virus.
Thanks to the new Siri update, users will now be able to ask the app things like “How do I know if I have coronavirus” or even “Do I have coronavirus”. Siri will then offer advice based on the symptoms people have.
The new functionality is presumably going to help accelerate awareness of the COVID-19 virus, something that may help reduce the spread. The new update started rolling out last week but users noticed the added functionality on Saturday before Apple confirmed that indeed the changes had been implemented.
When people ask Siri about coronavirus for the first time, the voice assistant will follow up with a question, asking you if you are experiencing any symptoms. If the assistant determines based on the symptoms listed that indeed you may be infected, it will advise you to call 911 immediately.
But if there are no clear symptoms, Siri will recommend that you self-isolate for 14 days while monitoring your situation. The voice assistant will also offer links to telehealth apps available on the app store in case the patient is not in a position to access a professional healthcare facility.
Apple also notes that all the answers provided by Siri come from the US Public Health Service as well as the CDC. However, it seems like the new update is available only for US citizens where over 80,000 cases of the COVID-19 virus have been reported.
Users who tried to ask the same questions in the UK didn’t get any response from Siri. Instead, they were redirected to a coronavirus information page launched by the UK government.
Tech companies in Silicon Valley have been stepping up efforts to help fight the coronavirus. Facebook and Google have both launched comprehensive information centers designed to educate the public about the virus.
Google is, in fact, testing a website that can help people determine whether they need testing. The site also provides resources on where they can get tested and how to self-isolate if they suspect they have been exposed to the virus.
Microsoft, on the other hand, is offering an interactive global map that helps people keep track of all affected areas. Microsoft is also working with the Center for Disease Control to create a “self-checker” chat box that could help people self-diagnose.
It is becoming clear that the world will need a global effort to deal with this pandemic. The participation of all sectors is now inevitable and it seems like Apple, just like other tech companies, is stepping in to play its part in dealing with the crisis.