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SiriKit, iMessage open new vistas for mobile app developers

Ask Siri “does this make me look fat,” and she’ll answer, “It seems like humans are preoccupied with this. In my dimension, we are more concerned with grey matter that corporeal matter.”

Sigh. I would be nice if developers of mobile apps had access to such profound insight. And now you do. At last, the forthcoming iOS 10 includes SiriKit and an API. You’ll also be able to create app extensions that let users interact with your app directly within messages.

As Apple puts it, “SiriKit enables your iOS 10 apps to work with Siri, so users can get things done with your content and services using just their voice.” But wait, there’s more. “In addition to extending Siri’s support for messaging, photo search and phone calls to more apps, SiriKit also adds support for new services, including ride booking and personal payments.”

Through SiriKit, your app builds an extension that communicates with Siri, as Apple explains, even when your app isn’t running. That extension registers with specific domains and intents. As an example, Apple discusses a messaging app that would register to support the Messages domain, and the intent to send a message. Siri does the heavy lifting, handling the user interaction, including voice and natural language recognition.

Six areas are predefined by Apple for third-party Siri interaction, including ride booking, photo search, VoIP call initiation, messaging, payments, and workouts.

To jump in the fray, you’ll need to download the Xcode 8 beta, which includes the iOS 10 SDK. At the bottom of the SiriKit page, you’ll also want to check out links to SiriKit programming guide, intents framework reference, intents UI reference, and tutorials.

As for messages, according to Apple, “Users will have easy access to your apps without having to leave Messages. They can conveniently share content, edit photos, play games, send payments, and collaborate with friends within a custom interface that you design.”

I certainly don’t care about the game play aspect or the ability to paste in stickers, but collaboration with work colleagues could provide powerful new capabilities for enterprise-class applications. Editing photos can also be leveraged for applications in, say, the insurance industry, where an adjuster can make annotations when photographing a damaged vehicle.

There’s a ton of documentation for creation of applications with iOS 10, including code samples, framework references, DemoBots for games, and much more. Time to get reading. And coding.

Have you already started building new apps or updating existing apps for iOS 10? What capabilities are you adding? Let’s get the discussion going; we’d like to hear from you.

And no, I don’t think it makes me look fat.

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