Why Apple Bought Siri

Posted In Apple news - By Joon On Wednesday, October 19th, 2011 With 0 Comments

Siri wasn’t always that little personal assistant on your phone. It used to be that really popular and intelligent voice control app that use to be on the App Store. The project was actually started by Jon Pielak, who began Siri in 2008.

The app, when out in the store, was among the most popular in terms of voice command. It was able to take voice command on the iPhone and take it to a complete new level that just wasn’t available with the standard voice control on iPhones on iOS 4 and 3.

The project began around a large series of code and was able to make it on its own with a partner until 2010, when Nuance, the creators of Dragon Naturally Speaking, realized the potential of the app and chipped in with its outstanding voice recognition technology into the Siri app.

Pielak unveiled the app in 2009 at a conference, where it began to gain some media traction. It was the first time that Siri was exposed to the world in a sea of apps called the App Store.

Apple purchased the start up company due to the apps nature to easily recognize voice and commands. While there are a bunch of voice recognition apps and technologies out there, the thing that separated Siri from the rest of the pack was its ability to understand human language and creating conversation. This allowed its users to tell Siri what it wanted done without a set phrase that it could interpret into an action. You can tell Siri however you’d like what you would like done and it gets what you are saying.

“Often times reviews on iTunes would comment on how the Siri app seems to do a better job than the Nuance app or Dragon dictate. The iPhone application is just the portal to the brains of Siri running on a bunch of servers. There, it can take a sentence and dissect it naturally. An example might be “Book a table at Il Fornaio in Novi for 7PM” and it determines that “Il Fornaio” is likely the name of a place and “Novi” is likely a location. This is referred to as natural language processing, and it is incredibly difficult to get right.”

The real magic of Siri comes after the program has turned the voice into text.

“Tell another system to “Book at table at Il Fornaio at 7:00 with my mom;” the system can no doubt create a calendar entry at 7:00 and might even know who your mom is. It might even be possible for that device to figure out the closest Il Fornaio restaurant. What differentiates the NLP logic in Siri is that it will maintain context so you could say: “Also send her an email reminder.” Siri will understand ‘her’ and compose the email accordingly.

This comprehension of context requires a great deal of logic and processing behind the scenes.”

Siri’s ability to interpret text is what caught the eyes of Apple’s executives. With the already well written and established software in hand, Apple could perfect it and integrate it into the operating system. With Apple, mass adoption of Siri and voice control became possible.

While some may see Siri as another thing that Apple is trying to push down society’s throat, it’s founder sees it as capable of changing the voice command industry. Apple’s Siri team is currently the largest at the company, with countless amounts of people working to perfect the software.

“Intelligence needs to come from many sources. Siri will need to mine collective input from as many data sources as possible in order to grow and stay relevant. Siri can’t be a marketing engine for select partners. True digital assistants have to put the user first, just as the user would do when making a decision on their own. There is enormous potential for Siri to integrate with data sources of many different types. Opening Siri up while ensuring the quality of the data will be a challenge for Apple. However, the recent success with the iOS and Mac AppStores has given Apple an effective way to influence its third part developers.”

Siri, in a perfect world, could perfectly all that you want it to say and everything you want it to do. If you could say, “Yo grab me some tix to that baseball movie.” to Siri, and it could book those tickets to Moneyball, it would bet the perfect software. But technology isn’t perfect, and it never will be.

People, however, are thinking of Siri beyond the iPhone 4S. Hackers have already succeeded in porting the software to the iPhone 4 and iPod Touch 4G. In addition, car makers have dreams of getting Siri in their cars to have voice command in their cars sync with the commands on their iPhones.

Siri may be new and radical at first, but it appears as if that the Siri isn’t going away anytime soon.


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