Here's the deal. You download the free app, start it up, and tell it what you want. It could be "Will it snow in Des Moines today?" or "Where can I find the nearest burger" or it could be "Find the nearest parks". It parses your comments, runs out to the web for a few seconds and comes back with a lot of suggestions. It gives you buttons to call the places you've found, or to show them on Google Maps and get you directions.
I tried to get a bit fancier saying "Make me a reservation for 2 at the nearest Olive Garden tonight at 7." The app figured out Olive Garden didn't take reservations through their service, but it provided me a number for the nearest Olive Garden and offered to map it. You can even tell the app to remind you of things, and it will send you an email at the appropriate time.
Very Cool. The tech behind this app came out of a project from the Stanford Research Institute as part of a government funded artificial intelligence project called CALO, or Cognitive Agent that Learns and Organizes.
Over time, the app will learn about what a user likes and the searches will get better and better.
As you will notice, the speech recognition of the app is very good. It comes from Nuance, and the companies software powers both Dragon Dictation and Dragon Search which are both top drawer apps for the iPhone.
The company makes money by getting a small fee from any transactions like buying movie tickets or making a reservation for dinner, but the user pays nothing.
To get started you need to register with your email address and then you're good to go. Siri recommends an iPhone 3GS, but doesn't say it won't work on older iPhones. They do say you need iPhone 3.0 or greater. Versions for older iPhones and the iPod touch are coming. The app is U.S. only.
I had a great experience using the app, and it's going on my iPhone home page. Let us know how it works for you, and especially how it works on phones other than the 3GS.
It's yet another reason why the iPhone rules. Get this app and be very impressed.