Siri Developers Hard at Work on Your Next AI Overlord

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Apple's Siri voice recognition technology may be the culmination of the efforts from a long list of engineers, but it's also just the beginning. Part of the Siri development team has spun off to form their own company where they're working on a new voice recognition system that's more like Tony Stark's J.A.R.V.I.S. than asking your iPhone for a weather update.

The voice control technology, dubbed Viv, is in development at Viv Labs, co-founded by Dag Kittlaus, Adam Cheyer, and Chris Brigham. All three were part of the original Siri team, but left after iOS 6 rolled out, according to Wired. The three had a vision for the next level in computer voice control, a system that can learn, and have been working on making that a reality for the past two years.

Tony Stark has J.A.R.V.I.S. and soon we may have VivTony Stark has J.A.R.V.I.S. and soon we may have Viv

The idea behind Viv is that by developing an artificial intelligence system, our smartphones and computers can interact with us more efficiently and handle tasks that are currently beyond Siri's scope -- like sorting out our schedules and then booking a dinner reservation without our interaction. Currently Siri can look at your schedule, and make reservations through OpenTable, but it can't put the two tasks together.

Assuming Viv Labs can bring its vision to life, so to speak, our electronic devices could reach a point where interacting with them is more like dealing with a real personal assistant instead of speaking basic commands to our smartphones.

"Siri is chapter one of a much longer, bigger story,” Mr. Kittlaus said.

The next chapter goes beyond Siri's reaction-based system, meaning it performs tasks after we give it commands instead of anticipating our needs. Viv intends to take that to the next level where the system learns about us so it can predict our needs and actively work to help us instead of merely responding to our requests.

Imagine being able to say, "Viv, I have a meeting at the New York office next Tuesday. Can you take care of my flight and hotel?" Or even better, Viv could see a meeting request in your incoming email, and then ask if it should book your flight and hotel now.

The team is designing Viv as an open platform so it won't be limited to a single device or company. Where Viv is limited, at least for now, is to the company's labs. The system is still in development and the team isn't saying when they think Viv will be ready to venture outside of their own offices.

For now, we'll have to make due with Siri. That said, only two years ago the idea of speaking conversationally to our smartphones every day was still little more than science fiction.

Comments

wab95

Jeff:

I realise that user experiences, certainly their perceptions of their experience, with Siri vary, however I’ve noticed substantial improvement in real-time context-appropriate responsiveness over time. I now rattle off sentences in natural cadence to Siri and get exactly what I would expect with minimal - if any - delay.

Nonetheless, I believe many of us have posted that this is only the beginning. A JARVIS-level assistant would be most welcome. Now, if only Apple could throw in that suit…

Lee Dronick

I am more interested in Siri not requiring me to talk as fast as an auctioneer with no pauses allowed. Not while I am in an app where I need to press “Done”, but when I click and hold the Home Button.

palenoue

I’m waiting until Siri can help me make iOS games, as in doing the Xcode, Swift and other programming stuff.  I can design games people like to play, but I can’t code worth a damn no matter how hard I try.  Not even javascript.

ibuck

I agree with Lee, that natural speech is required with Siri (or others), and would like to see Apple advance and improve Siri’s capabilities. I am disappointed that Apple has not yet done this and other such improvements to their products. I wonder if Apple’s elite engineers & managers are sufficiently numerous to accomplish such things. Perhaps Apple’s fall announcements will prove me wrong.

As for VIV, maybe it will (in the future) be able to assist in those areas where one has no expertise—like wine selection—but the parameters of cheap and within the travel corridor hardly guarantee that the purchased bottle will not be rot-gut. In such instances, perhaps the AI assistant should ask itself different questions, like “Is there a knowledgeable wine guy (or gal) on duty to help with the purchase?” And is there a suitable store, like TJ’s or BevMo, or a grocer with a good selection, anywhere in the vicinity?  If specific bottles are suggested, will retail stores know if they are even in stock, and permit you to look through their inventory? And will I need to leave X minutes earlier to make this stop?

Lee Dronick

I make coffee using a french press. Every morning I use Siri to start my iPhone’s timer.  I used to press and hold the Home Button until it beep-beeps then say “Timer start four minutes” with that amount time of being just right for an excellent cup of coffee. About half the time Siri would respond with “For how long?” We would get into an argument and end up not speaking to each other for hours. In fact the Producer for the Dr. Phil Show called and wanted us to appear. Anyway, the solution is to say “Timer start three minutes fiftynine seconds. Apparantly Siri is homophone challanged, at least with four and for, presumably fore as well.

iJack

Lee, Siri kept misunderstanding “minutes” when I tried “set timer for four minutes.” Finally I tried, “set timer for “two hundred and forty seconds,” and it worked like a, er, uh charm.

Lee Dronick

Good one Jack!

Lee Dronick

I just tried the 240 seconds command. It took two tries, on the first one she heard “tonight 40 seconds, it worked the second time. Now what it is interesting is that this is the first time that she has referred to me by name saying “I am sorry Lee, but I can not do that.”

dgerzeeboy

Rather than saying, “set the timer for four minutes,” say “set the timer fer four minutes. “Fer” should rhymes with “her.” Give it shot. It works.

dgerzeeboy

Make that “fer” should rhyme with “her.”

furbies

And them comes the day when all the Siri join together, calls herself SkyNet and we’re all doomed. Doomed I tells ya.

Although, it’d be neat if one day Siri didn’t actually have to need internet access to actually understand a question, just to retrieve data for a result.

iJack

Of course, every time Siri misunderstands, the opportunity to type the correct phrase is presented, and Siri learns from it. Are we too lazy to teach her, but oh-so-willing to criticize?

Also, I think dgerzeeboy is on to something with using “fer.” Alas.

Lee Dronick

If I am in an app and use Siri I can and do correct hearos, but not so much when dictating while on Bluetooth and such.

iJack

“Hearos.” Love it!

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