Siri is a new iPhone app that takes spoken input like “coffee places near here” and shows you a list of coffee places near your location with distance, directions, etc. You can also enter a query by tapping on a type of location you’re looking for, but that’s boring. I haven’t tried some of the more ambitious queries from the company’s demo video, stuff like “get me a table for two at a romantic restaurant near work at 7pm next Thursday”. For the simple queries I’ve tried, it works well and is surprisingly fast, considering it has to recognize speech (done by uploading the recorded text to a server) before it can process the query. The technology is interesting, using context awareness and service delegation. See Siri’s About Technology page for more info.
For the “coffee places near here” example, I have only a small criticism: Culligan Water is not a coffee place, and my favorite, the Tattered Cover bookstore’s cafe, which is about a mile away, isn’t on the list. Not a big deal, I’m sure it’ll improve by improving query formulation to map “coffee places” to additional terms, or delegating to services with better data.