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Aussie hacks Siri to automate home

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Ben Grubb

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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.

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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.

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.

Hacking Siri to do strange things ... Marcus Schappi.

Hacking Siri to do strange things ... Marcus Schappi.

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.

Hacked ... Siri responds to turning off lights.

Hacked ... Siri responds to turning off lights.

"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

twitter This reporter is on Facebook: /bengrubb

10 comments

  • Awesome well done!!

    Commenter
    MJTOTHETOP
    Date and time
    December 02, 2011, 10:49AM
    • Sadly he cannot hack Siri to get him a girlfriend...

      Commenter
      Roland Garros
      Date and time
      December 02, 2011, 11:02AM
      • Siri.. have you seen my life?

        Siri: you need to get one.. i can suggest a range of places within your area where you can get a life.

        Commenter
        ohhhhhhh
        Location
        melb
        Date and time
        December 02, 2011, 11:03AM
        • Considering how often Siri completely misunderstands what you say (yes, I've used it, and no, it works anywhere near as well as it does in the commercials (but what does?)) I'd be very wary about doing what he plans. Hopefully his home doesn't kill or maim him within a week.

          Commenter
          Jon
          Location
          Reality
          Date and time
          December 02, 2011, 11:06AM
          • I just really cannot believe it. A new article on old media about technology that doesn't incorrectly use words and that has no assumptions, and does not dumb it down to the extent that their just pure wrong.

            If you don't understand it don't use it, then again if people followed that motto apple would have zero market share of anything. Credit when credits due, Siri is the ONLY thing apple has made that is actually innovative or creative, oh but wait.

            Thats just software and im sure i will be able to get some android software in 6months that can do everything Siri can do, but with no bugs because its not bleeding edge technology

            Commenter
            rochiii
            Location
            northcote
            Date and time
            December 02, 2011, 11:07AM
            • Can't help me with a damn thing, except the capital of Latvia, and I already knew that.

              Commenter
              Stephen
              Date and time
              December 02, 2011, 11:12AM
              • Brilliant-now we need an app to send calls to my son's Siemens hearing aids without using the TECH remote. 1000's would benefit. Siemens can't do it. Can you help, Marcus?

                Commenter
                Mikro
                Location
                Melbourne
                Date and time
                December 02, 2011, 11:17AM
                • So Siri sends your voice command back to Apple for decoding and forwarding the command text back to the phone.

                  More data bandwidth used by you, and more control wielded by Apple.

                  I think I'll stick with the real phone, made by the Finns.

                  Commenter
                  JohnB
                  Location
                  Melbourne
                  Date and time
                  December 02, 2011, 11:21AM
                  • Haha...you can tell it's Friday by the commical comments. Technology continues to amaze me everyday.

                    Commenter
                    Fluffypants73
                    Location
                    Sydney
                    Date and time
                    December 02, 2011, 11:25AM
                    • very soon Samsung and Android will steal this too and say that their is better...

                      Commenter
                      Joe
                      Location
                      Pyrmont
                      Date and time
                      December 02, 2011, 11:33AM
                      Comments are now closed
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