I've spent a lot of time with Siri
since she came into my life at the end of January. I was going to write a lighthearted piece about her amusing responses, but that must wait until next month. I need to tell you what I have learned about her history and how she and her Google counterpart will change our lives
didn't just magically appear on iPhones on October 4, 2011, the day before Steve Jobs
was created by a Silicon Valley team of visionaries who cleverly exploited government-funded research. "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."
So says a fascinating article published in the Huffington Post.Siri
isn't very forthcoming about her name. Ask her and she'll reply "What does my name mean? I don't think I can explain it in your language. Sorry." But, in fact, the name is a variant of Sigrid
. The Indian Siri is associated with Lakshimi, the Hindu goddess for wealth and prosperity. Her creators describe her as a "beautiful woman that leads you to fair victory and wealth
Siri is a daughter of DARPA.
In 2003, the Defense Department joined with SRI International to lead a five-year, 500-person effort to build a virtual assistant
to help military commanders with both information overload and office chores. The outcome was CALO--the Cognitive Assistant that Learns and Organizes. More about that in this video
. It was the largest artificial intelligence (AI) program in history.Siri was originally designed as an app for the newly introduced iPhone by a start-up company with the same name
. According to an early investor, the small company's progress was "absolutely breathtaking." Siri
's creators knew their success depended not only on a smart app, but also one that was amusing
. They brainstormed snappy comebacks for all the offbeat questions people were likely to ask the assistant.
In 2010, three weeks after Siri
debuted as an independently developed iPhone app, Steve Jobs called the developers. He outbid Verizon, and Siri went to live at Apple
. In fact, if you ask Siri about her origins, she will tell you she was designed by Apple in California. But, in fact, the Siri
we have today is actually a dumbed-down version of the original. If you want to know what your assistant can do, click the little "i" to the right of "What can I help you with?" when you invoke Siri
. What's Next?
The original Siri
synced with dozens of other online sources for information. It was far more proactive than our Siri
, who, though very helpful, does not anticipate our needs. Apple's Siri
had another challenge. She needed to work in nearly 100 countries, speaking lots of difference languages.Futurists and researchers predict that voice-controlled software like Siri and Google Now will take us from understanding how to use technology to technology that understands us
. More than half a dozen Siri-like services launched in 2012 alone. So for now, enjoy your voice-controlled assistant. And look for lots more to come.