A team of four students at the University of Pennsylvania has created a hack for Siri, Apple's interactive voice assistant, that allows users to control home appliances, lighting, Web services, and even cars. The hack, called GoogolPlex, connects Siri to the programming interfaces supplied by third parties, via a simple Web proxy server.Engadget
reports that the four students - Alex Sands, Ajay Patel, Ben Hsu and Gagan Gupta - won third prize at the PenApps college hackathon for their idea. GoogolPlex
is up and running, and anyone can check it out by pointing their iPhone
to the team's proxy server through the device's Settings app.
By selecting the active Wi-Fi access point and changing the proxy to http://totally.betterthansiri.com, data is passed through the GoogolPlex project's servers. This allows the team to intercept a search term that is sent to Google after processing by Apple's massive data centers. The name "GoogolPlex" encourages commands to be sent to Google, as if users are specifically requesting a Web search.
GoogolPlex can currently interface with Spotify, Instagram, Philips Hue smart lighting products, Nest thermostats, and Tesla electric cars. Integration with an online payments service Venmo was also planned for demonstration purposes, but dropped.Apple
has so far restricted third parties from plugging in to Siri or creating extensions that would extend its functionality to more apps and services. GoogolPlex demonstrates what will be possible if and when Apple does decide to open Siri via APIs.
The student team has also published instructions
for others to create their own commands by hooking into public APIs. User-created functions
include asking Google Maps for directions, displaying a random XKCD comic, picking a random card from a deck, and flipping a coin.
Responses are understandably slow, as the popularity of GoogolPlex has spread. Some commands also require a helper app to be installed.
No jailbreaking or other modification is necessary, although rerouting all data through a third-party proxy does raise security implications as it can be intercepted, stored, or otherwise tampered with mid-stream.
The team hopes to continue working on GoogolPlex, and eventually develop a way to allow anyone to make custom commands work.