What Siri Was and What It Could Be

Ron Callari of InventorSpot recently discussed the history of Siri and the rise of virtual personal assistants. He writes, "Back in May, 2009, I wrote about the first iteration of Siri, titled: Siri, Advice from Virtual Personal Assistants. For those who haven't followed the iPhone evolution, while Siri was first integrated into iPhone's operating system with their '4S' launch, it existed as stand-alone app previously. Fueled by artificial intelligence, it was a harbinger of what was to come in the new age of Web 3.0 and semantic technology… Siri prior to being acquired by Apple was the largest 'artificial intelligence' project in the U.S. at its time. Made possible by a $150 million DARPA investment, the project included 25 research organizations and institutions and spanned 5 years."

He goes on, "Back then, according Bianca Bosker of the Huffington Post, 'Siri boasted an even more irreverent tone -- and a more robust set of skills.' According to Dag Kittlaus, SRI International's co-founder and chief executive, his company had carefully crafted their virtual personal assistant with an attitude and backstory that was 'otherworldly,' 'vaguely aware of popular culture' and armed with a 'dry wit,' Kittlaus said. So what happened? Where is the reasoning and learning that was originally built into Siri's original programming, and why was it necessary to remove the frontal lobe of its brain, similarly to the outdated lobotomy operations of the 1940s and 50s? Bosker describes the marked difference between Siri the First and Google at the time. 'As conceived by its creators, Siri was supposed to be a 'do engine,' something that would allow people to hold conversations with the Internet. While a search engine used stilted keywords to create lists of links, a do engine could carry a conversation, then decide and act,' reported Bosker."

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Image: Courtesy Siri