“Users’ online lives are becoming more complicated and getting out of control for mainstream users. What if there was an easy way for normal users (non-power users) to ask the Internet to help them.”
This, in a nutshell, is the elevator pitch from US start-up Siri on their secretive CALO (Cognitive Assistant that Learns and Organizes) project.
Together with DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) they’re working on a new, revolutionary web interface, geared not towards the digerati, but the mainstream.
“The CALO project is building an automated assistant to help manage and improve your life. The technology spans all aspects of interaction–natural language processing, speech recognition, and planning and reasoning capabilities–and interfaces with all kinds of systems, such as email and contacts…”
Siri co-founder and Vice President of Engineering, Adam Cheyer. For more, see CNET.
If we zoom in a little further on this announcement and take in the background info, we can actually see that Cheyer is actually referring to the Semantic Web or Web 3.0; a place of “Virtual Warmth” where Intelligence at the Interface allows the internet to pro-actively make recommendations to the user, much like a personal assistant:
“The interfaces we use to interact with the world’s information are getting smarter. Web portals gave us someone else’s idea of the content we should see. Then came search engines, which let us tell the system what we want, one query at a time. We are about to see the next wave -intelligence at the interface- in which the system knows about us, our information, and our physical environment. With knowledge about our context, an intelligent system can make recommendations & act on our behalf.”
Siri itself claims to have her business model and partners in place and is committed to success, though it is common knowledge that that hasn’t stopped other revolutionary tech-driven initiatives from failing in the past: in the end consumers must be convinced and budged to re-learn their online habits AND download and purchase the software.
At this point it seems Siri is ready to release its (possibly) Disruptive Technology during the first half of 2009, and they’ve got some impressive pedigree on board allowing them to become the biggest Nightmare Competitor since Google: their payroll includes engineering and strategic wizards from internet and tech giants/godfathers such as Xerox PARC, Google, NASA, Motorola and Yahoo!.
Microsoft have already revealed some of their amazing achievements with their Surface Computer (interface, see the video above) & their Sphere, and scientists and digerati alike admit that the way we humans interact with the screen (The Office-trashcan-directory-folder Analogy) is anti-natural and the main reason non-power users such as my grandmother still don’t know how to send me an e-mail to stay in touch…
[And let's not forget the major leaps in productivity we could enjoy from innovations like these; the various office suites such as Open Office.org, Microsoft Office and Google Apps are said to be "productivity packages" but I suggest you'd take a stroll into any office anywhere in the world and witness for yourself how counterproductive most professionals are using it, even now in 2008!]
As the social divide grows between tech/web savvy people and those whom are not, I believe that ventures such as these -looming recession notwithstanding- could give a major and much needed boost to not only internet usage and web-app uptake by the mainstream, but to (new forms of) education as well: we really need a more democratic way of spreading (access to) knowledge.
Hopefully these developments shall be one of the many small steps in making the web a truly leveraging force for education, productivity and true interconnection worldwide.
Tags: Web30, DARPA, Open Office, NASA, Google, Web 3 0, Microsoft Office
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