D7 Tech Demo: Siri


Many would-be augurs have been trying to pinpoint the moment the artificial intelligence overlord known as Skynet gets it start: Some may one day point to the launch of Siri. Siri is a virtual personal assistant for your iPhone or computer, with a pedigree: It originated at the Stanford Research Institute and was spun out as an AI project financed by DARPA. Now, as an alternative to search, Siri is supposed to carry out tasks like finding your next flight out or ordering a pizza by crawling the Web and conversing with the user, processing requests, responding and learning from the interaction. It will do this via a combination of technologies, including speech recognition, natural language processing and semantic Web search.

Demo Highlights

Live Blog

  • Siri CEO Dag Kittlaus comes out. He introduces himself and the product. It’s been many years of work in the making, he says.
  • Siri is about making interactions between the Web and user much simpler. It is focusing on mobile first. He shows the interface on an iPhone with both a Google screen and Siri screen side by side. Dag types in a flight query to both.
  • Siri figures out what you mean. Dag asks it a question, compares the results between Siri and Google (GOOG). Walt: Google is terrible! Dag: It gets really interesting when you ask it do a service. Walt: Can’t Bing do this?
  • It can take actions on your behalf too. For instance, “Il Forniao [Italian restaurant] reservations tonight for 3 at 5pm.” Siri takes your information and pulls up the reservation function for the restaurant.
  • Siri is sort of a giant mashup of services, Dag says.
  • It’s “Carol Bartz,” not “Sheryl Bartz,” Dag. Now let’s try asking for a movie. Siri returns the closest location and time for “Angels and Demons.” Siri has an API.
  • “Get red sox yankees tickets in boston”–this is one for Walt, says Dag. $1,649–the price is wrong? But Siri delivers. Shows a map of the stadium and seats/tickets.
  • Walt: so Google is constantly stupid, we see that now. But is it only good for certain services? How about ballet? Dag: It learns, we break it out into various areas of expertise. Right now, for instance, it doesn’t do TV listings. Siri has a Q&A function. Dag asks a question to the True Knowledge Web service. Kara: Ask it “How old is Kara?” Siri’s answer: “Dag, it’s not polite to ask about women’s ages.” It’s arguably broken Asimov’s Second Law already. Someone get John Connor, just in case.
  • Now Dag is demoing on the Apple (AAPL) iPhone, speaking into the phone. Voice recognition is pretty good. He tells it: “Find a plumber near my house.” Siri pulls up a list of nearby plumbers. Kara: Do you have to have a voice like yours for it to work? Dag: It gets pretty good, it learns. Kara: I like.
  • Walt: Will it be in the App Store? Dag: This summer, and it will be a free app. Walt: Revenue stream? Dag: Tie-ins with the other platforms, i.e., OpenTable. We’ll start with mobile and then build it out.
  • Walt and Kara: Thanks; that was really cool.

Siri Demo Photos

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Demo: Siri at D7.

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