Norman Winarsky, Co-Founder of Siri, on is Siri ‘Assistant’ a big deal?
Let me first say I have no knowledge of what Apple plans to do with the Siri purchase. I read the rumors just like everyone else and it appears that Apple is getting ready to reveal what it has done with Siri over the past year and a half (we were actually expecting it at WWDC). Make no mistake: Apple’s ‘mainstreaming’ Artificial Intelligence in the form of a Virtual Personal Assistant is a groundbreaking event.
I’d go so far as to say it is a World-Changing event. Right now a few people dabble in partial AI enabled apps like Google Voice Actions, Vlingo or Nuance Go. Siri was many iterations ahead of these technologies, or at least it was two years ago. This is REAL AI with REAL market use. If the rumors are true, Apple will enable millions upon millions of people to interact with machines with natural language. The PAL will get things done and this is only the tip of the iceberg. We’re talking another technology revolution. A new computing paradigm shift.
You heard him folks. This is world-changing. An evolution in how human beings interact with devices such as the iPhone and iPod touch. This will go far beyond voice recognition systems we know and
love hate today.
Welcome to the future. This is mainstream Artificial Intelligence.
On whether Siri’s thirst for computing power could have delayed the upcoming iPhone(s), he said:
I’m not familiar with Apple’s roadmap and any delays but I can say that AI takes a lot of computing power. The Siri software needs to cache data, needs to access a big dataset at wide bandwidth and needs a big processor to crunch all of the numbers. When we originally released Siri for the iPhone 3GS, we had to perform all kinds of optimizations and shortcuts to get it to work efficiently. All I can say is that it will likely run much better on a faster phone.
Highlighting the importance of Nuance speech-to-text technology to Siri, he says:
[Nuance speech recognition to Siri] is a lot less important than you’d probably think. When we first built Siri, we use Vlingo for speech recognition and as such, at the time of purchase the speech recognition component is modular. Theoretically, if a better speech recognition comes along (or Apple buys one), they could likely replace Nuance without too much trouble. That being said, Nuance has far and away the most IP in speech synthesis technologies in the industry. We should know, SRI launched Nuance as one of our incubated companies in 1995 and it IPO’d in 2000.
[Update] – Vlingo’s President & CEO, Dave Grannan, just chimed in with a blog post entitled “iPhone Assistant,” noting the company will continue to deliver products for iOS despite the imminent introduction of iOS Assistant. Why? – Because Vlingo can ‘do things in places that you simply cannot do with the “native” solution.’
The last few years Apple has continued to surge past its competitors by delivering products that technically beat user expectations. So why would we try to compete? The answer is simple. Vlingo delivers choice that you simply cannot get from these “OS integrated” options. Last year when Google launched Voice Actions we knew it was a great product yet millions of people have chosen Vlingo because of the differentiated services and versatility that go well beyond Google’s solution. Consumers have clearly stated that we’re not in a “one size fits all” market. The same thought process applies here. While it is almost a guarantee that the Apple/Siri product will be good, it’s also known that deep OS integration limits the user’s options. With Vlingo you will continue to get functionality that allows you to do things in places that you simply cannot do with the “native” solution.
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