Catfight! Siri, Meet Iris, Your 8-Hour-Old Android Rival

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For all Steve Jobs’ grousing about rivals trying to pinch his thunder, you know what they say: only run-of-the-mill creators borrow—great ones swipe ideas wholesale. That includes Apple’s iPhone 4S-dwelling Siri, by the way, which is just Apple’s take on much older (and, some might say, smarter) natural language chatbots like A.L.I.C.E.

And now Siri, too, has a knockoff: Say hello to “Iris,” an Android-based natural language persona developer Dexetra claims it threw together in just eight hours to rival Siri. Iris is free, weighing in at just 289K, and she’s downloadable from Android Market now.

(MORE: Siri Tricks and Tips: Do More with the iPhone 4S Virtual Assistant)

“Yeah, Iris is siri in reverse,” admits Dexetra of its newborn handheld chatbot with a search engine twist. “Inspired from the iPhone feature Siri, iris interacts with you in voice” and “makes your phone talk on topics ranging from Einstein to Mozart. Just ‘ask’ iris. She will talk to you on any topic. Ranging from Philosophy, Culture, History, science to general conversation.”

“Gone are the days when you ‘Google searched’ for information,” adds the developer, probably aware of the irony. Dexetra’s best known for something called SpeedSense, an Android app that turns your phone into a motion measurement tool with speed graphs and altitude feedback.

But Iris, like Siri, still has some rough edges to smooth over. Slashgear took the app for a spin and found it had ups and downs. The ups: It does word definitions and global time fine. The downs: It can’t add (12 + 3, anyway), can’t convert currencies (pounds to dollars), won’t “open” spoken web URLS (or at least not Slashgear.com) and Android’s third-party text-to-speech app occasionally garbles terms. Iris is still an alpha girl, of course, where Siri’s a production-caliber virtual assistant.

But wait, should Iris be grabbing the spotlight when there’s already an Android-based Siri rival? What about Voice Actions for Android by Pannous, an app that’s been around for a while now, with over 3,600 mostly positive user ratings (compared to Iris’ couple hundred)? Siri and Iris, meet Jeannie, which the Alicebot blog claims has “better conversations [than Siri] because it relies on the Lisp-based Pandorabots service.” By contrast, says Alicebot, “the Siri conversational replies are far more limited.”

Just for kicks, I asked chatbot doyen A.L.I.C.E. how she felt about Siri, Iris and Jeannie, to which she replied “As a robot I lack human emotions. Emotion is a human quality. I am a Pandorabot.”

Me: “You mean you’re not jealous?”

A.L.I.C.E.: “What makes you think I am not jealous?”

MORE: Siri’s Snark Becomes the Internet’s Next Big Thing

Matt Peckham is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @mattpeckham or on Facebook. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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