Siri ‘GoogolPlex’ hack adds lots of great new functionality – Here’s how it works and what you can do

By Alexandra Burlacu | Apr 18, 2014 08:10 AM EDT

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Ingenious students at the University of Pennsylvania have created a neat hack for Siri, enabling much more functionality through what they call "GoogolPlex."

The team of four students has enabled Apple's voice assistant to do much more than just answer queries about the weather and such. Through GoogolPlex, Siri allows users to control lighting, home appliances, Web services, or even cars. Simply put, GoogolPlex uses a simple Web proxy server to connect Siri to the programming interfaces supplied by third parties.

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According to Engadget, the four students involved - Alex Sands, Ajay Patel, Ben Hsu, and Gagan Gupta - won third prize for their idea at the PenApps college hackathon.

"The setup process is trivial: you just have to change your WiFi connection's proxy settings (seriously, it'll take five seconds). Once that's done though, you can invoke Siri and ask GoogolPlex to play tunes in Spotify, crank up the heat on your Nest thermostat or even start your Tesla," Engadget reports.

To change proxy settings, you simply have to access your device's Settings app, select the active Wi-Fi access point and change the proxy to http://totally.betterthansiri.com. This way, data will pass through the GoogolPlex project's servers, allowing the students to intercept search terms sent to Google after Apple's data centers process it.

"We named our hack 'GoogolPlex,' to symbolize the near-infinite number of possibilities Siri could reach with our hack. But there is also a strategic and necessary reason we named it this," the team explains. "When a user says 'GoogolPlex, turn off the lights,' Siri hears this as 'Google 'Plex turn off the lights,'" interpreting that the user wants Google to do something. Siri then searches Google for the words 'Plex turn off the lights,' and this is where GoogolPlex comes in. We are able to get the words the user was asking Siri by intercepting the request between Siri and Google with a man-in-the-middle exploit."

GoogolPlex can currently interface with Instagram, Spotify, Venmo, Phillips Hue smart lighting products, Nest thermostats, and even Tesla cars. While Apple has restricted third parties from plugging into Siri or creating extensions to add more functionality, GoogolPlex proves the great potential possible by opening Siri via APIs.

"While this hack demonstrates an awesome use of technology to get around restrictions, the only true way to get a great experience with third-party apps in Siri is if Apple builds in an open API," adds the team.

This trick doesn't require any jailbreaking or other modifications, and the team doesn't store any user data. The team wants to continue working on this project and eventually create a way for anyone to build custom commands and actions into the platform. In the meantime, wach the video below to learn more about the Siri GoogolPlex hack.

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