Writing for Huff Post, Bianca Bosker gives readers a detailed history of Siri’s origins and what is in store for the virtual personal assistant.
According Bosker, before Siri was bought by Apple, “Siri boasted an even more irreverent tone — and a more robust set of skills. Like fiction writers dreaming up a character, Dag Kittlaus, Siri’s co-founder and chief executive, and Harry Saddler, a design expert, had carefully crafted the assistant’s attitude and backstory.” Siri was to be “otherworldly,” “vaguely aware of popular culture” and armed with a “dry wit,” according to its creators.
“The Siri that Apple introduced in October 2011, 16 months after acquiring the technology for a reported $150 to $250 million, had expanded its linguistic range from one to multiple languages,” Bosker wrote. “It was scaled to serve millions of people and programmed to operate internationally. It had acquired a voice with which to speak its answers, where before it had offered only written responses. And it was deeply integrated into the iPhone, so that it could tap into about a dozen of Apple’s own tools to handle simple tasks like scheduling a meeting, replying to emails or checking the weather.”
Bosker pointed out that many Siri’s backers know Apple’s version of the assistant has not yet lived up to its potential. “As impressive as those talents were, most failed to realize that Apple’s version of Siri lacked many of the features once built into the program. This, after all, was no ordinary iPhone app, but the progeny of the largest artificial intelligence project in U.S. history: a Defense Department-funded undertaking that sought to build a virtual assistant that could reason and learn,” Bosker explained.
According to, Gary Morgenthaler, a partner at Morgenthaler Ventures, “The Siri team saw the future, defined the future and built the first working version of the future. So it’s disappointing to those of us that were part of the original team to see how slowly that’s progressed out of the acquired company into the marketplace.”
According to Bosker:
[quote] 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. Had one too many drinks? The ability to coordinate a Google search for a ride home might elude you, but a do engine could translate a muttered, “I’m drunk take me home,” into a command to send a car service to your location. The startup’s goal was not to build a better search engine, but to pioneer an entirely new paradigm for accessing the Internet, one that would let artificially intelligent agents summon the answers people needed, rather than pull relevant resources for humans to consult on their own. If the search engine defined the second generation of the web, Siri’s co-founders were confident the do engine would define the third.
The do engine was designed to be a participant in the life at hand — one that could anticipate what you wanted before you wanted it, and make it yours before you could ask. Siri’s creators planned, though never implemented, a way for Siri to assist waylaid travelers: The assistant could preempt the frustration caused by a delayed plane by suggesting alternate flights, trains departing shortly, or car rental companies with vehicles available.
This Siri — the Siri of the past — offers a glimpse at what the Siri of the future may provide, and a blueprint for how a growing wave of artificially intelligent assistants will slot into our lives. The goal is a human-enhancing and potentially indispensable assistant that could supplement the limitations of our minds and free us from mundane and tedious tasks.[/quote]
Very interesting piece, well worth a read…