When talking about Apple’s new iPhone 4s, most users immediately think about the Apple Siri Assitant and the new 8 megapixel camera. Siri is a cool feature but did you know it comes from a DARPA military project called COLO?
Although we only heard about Siri a couple of years ago (as a stand-alone iphone app), it is actually research that started 10 years ago in a DARPA funded project called Personalized Assistant that Learns. DARPA awarded the contract to a company called SRI, who dubbed their internal project Cognitive Agent that Learns and Organizes (CALO).
The purpose of CALO was to develop a cognitive system (Adaptive Artificial Intelligence) that could learn from experience, reason, and adapt to ever changing realities. To be clear, CALO learns what information you want, how you want it and what you do with it. With each interaction, it becomes better at meeting your requirements. ”The goal of the project is to create cognitive software systems,” SRI explained, “that is, systems that can reason, learn from experience, be told what to do, explain what they are doing, reflect on their experience, and respond robustly to surprise.”
The switch to civilian use
In 2008 DARPA gave up on the project and SRI decided to commercialize it via a spin-off called SIRI. Seeing the huge potential, Apple scooped it up for an undisclosed amount and the rest is history.
Changing our interface
Siri is different than most competitive solutions because it can understand and respond to natural speech [not just canned command syntax]. Years ago, Apple revolutionized the PC world with its mouse based graphical interface, now it has the opportunity to change our interaction with Siri. Siri may be the first major step towards voice interactive devices that are intelligent.
What do you think?