An Australian man has become one of the first to hack the iPhone 4S voice recognition app Siri but his motives were not sinister – he wants to use the smartphone as a home automation tool.
Sydney man Marcus Schappi, 28, spent just over $120 on a gadget set-up which enabled him to hack Siri and use voice commands to turn on a lamp and open web pages.
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Hacking iPhone's Siri
Sydneysider Marcus Schappi demonstrates how he's hacked iPhone's Siri to control other devices with voice commands.
He next wants to see whether he can ask Siri to close the chicken hutch on his property and unlock his front door using simple voice commands.
He joins another Sydney developer and founder of Remember the Milk - a task manager app for the iPhone, iPad and Android platforms - in hacking Siri.
Mr Schappi says his hack could allow users to do simple tasks such as turn their air conditioning on or off, control their home entertainment or alarm system and unlock their front door or car.
But the hack may not last long, with Mr Schappi predicting Apple would want to close the hole he exploited.
"Anything with a remote control is instantly up for grabs," he said.
"When Apple shipped the iPhone 4S, only a subset of Siri functionality was made available to Australian consumers," he said. "[This hack] could provide an opportunity for developers to fill the gap."
Mr Schappi is the director of Little Bird Company, which sells electronics such as the devices required to make the hack work. He plans to sell a "plug and play" box that will ship early next year and allow anyone to hack their iPhone 4S Siri app.
Mr Schappi is a developer working on apps for the likes of Qantas, Caltex, Foxtel, Austar, NSW Rural Fire Service and NSW Industry and Investment. "I've just switched over fulltime to what was the hobby business I founded whilst at university (Little Bird Electronics)," he said.
To understand how the hack works one must know a bit about how Siri operates. It sends "voice packets" to Apple's servers. The tech giant's computer servers then provide voice recognition on these packets and returns a string of text.
In the case of the hack, it uses a "DNS forwarder" called dnsmasq to intercept commands sent from the iPhone 4S to Apple's computer servers and forwards them to some scripts running on a computer called SiriProxy, according to Mr Schappi. The proxy then converts the text into a command and does the task required using inexpensive electronics.
Best of all, it doesn't require jailbreaking the iPhone, which Apple condemns.
"Today anyone with some electronics and programming knowhow can make this work," Mr Schappi said.
The only caveat, though, is that the hack only works on a home computer network.
Mr Schappi described the set-up as "relatively inexpensive". It uses what is known as an Arduino board with an Ethernet port ($69.95), at least two Arduino compatible relay modules or electronic switches ($13.50 each) and one wireless mains remote ($24.95), bringing the total to $121.90.
He predicted Apple would want to shut down the hack but it couldn't do so "without breaking compatibility with existing handsets running iOS 5", the iPhone operating system.
"They could push out a patch that breaks things, but this would be a bad customer experience," he said.
"If Apple could secure Siri it would allow Apple an enormous amount of leverage.
"Siri is seen by some as a way for Apple to side step Google dominance in search (and mobile search)."
Further potential uses of the hack:
• With an RFID board and Arduino you could ask Siri where your keys are.
• With a temperature sensor you can ask what the temperature and humidity is.
• With RFID/distance sensors you could ask Siri if the toilet is occupied at work.
• With a GPS module you could strap it to your pet and be able to ask Siri where the pet is.
• With a Roomba (robotic vacuum cleaner) and a Roo Stick you could ask Siri to clean the house.
Source: Marcus Schappi
This reporter is on Facebook: /bengrubb