Former Siri team working on radically new virtual personal assistant with true artificial intelligence

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“Siri is chapter one of a much longer, bigger story,” says Dag Kittlaus, one of three of the original creators of Apple’s virtual personal assistant. The team, originally acquired by Apple as part of its $200M purchase of Siri, has now left the company to form a new startup, Viv Labs, to work on the rest of that story.

The vision described by the team in a lengthy piece in Wired is certainly ambitious. The problem with Siri, they say, is that it can only do things it has been explicitly programmed to do.

Though Apple has since extended Siri’s powers—to make an OpenTable restaurant reservation, for example—she still can’t do something as simple as booking a table on the next available night in your schedule. She knows how to check your calendar and she knows how to use Open­Table. But putting those things together is, at the moment, beyond her.

What Kittlaus and his team want to do is create a personal assistant which can learn to do new things for itself …  Read more

Is Siri a success for Apple? [Poll]

Oh, Siri. Apple’s little voice-activated personal assistant in iOS can handle questions, give recommendations, and delegate requests, but does it really live up to expectations?

The folks in Cupertino like to roll out advertisements that show Siri capable of compiling individual preferences with personalized results, and even completing basic tasks like finding a nearby restaurant, but the software met very mixed reactions after it Beta-débuted on the iPhone 4S in October. Those who felt misled by Siri’s functionality depicted in commercials eventually sought reimbursement by filing a class action lawsuit against Apple earlier this year.

Fortune’s Adam Lashinsky wrote about how chief executive Tim Cook is changing Apple in an interesting piece this morning, but he also touched upon the contention surrounding Siri. He noted Apple’s future relies on the quality of its products, which holds true for any company, but then he pointed to the iOS-maker’s knowledge navigator:

“Those looking for deficiencies have found them in Siri, a less-than-perfect product that Apple released with the rare beta label in late 2011, a signal that the service shouldn’t be viewed as fully baked. Siri’s response time has been slow, meaning the servers and software powering it are inadequate. ‘People are embarrassed by Siri,’ says one former insider. ‘Steve would have lost his mind over Siri.’”

It is interesting that an unnamed insider claimed Jobs would “lose his mind” over Siri, especially because it is well-known the late CEO worked with former Siri founder and subsequent Apple Engineering Director Dag Kittlaus on the project. Kittlaus admitted last March at Network World that Jobs felt they “cracked it” in regards to Siri, which alludes to the chief’s satisfaction with the voice assistant and contrasts with the insider’s opinion.

The poll is after the break.

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Sony’s Stringer: “No doubt that Apple is working on changing the traditional television set”


A rendition of an Apple-branded television set.

The WSJ reports that amid losing money on every television set they make, Sony somehow has a strategy for redemption. Stringer declined to provide details about what Sony is developing but said “there’s a tremendous amount of R&D going into a different kind of TV set”.

He he has “no doubt” Apple’s Steve Jobs also was working on changing the traditional TV set. “That’s what we’re all looking for”, he noted, warning “it will take a long time to transition to a new form of television”. Slim margins, low prices and little innovation make the business of researching, developing and marketing high-definition television sets a cutthroat one, he remarked:

We can’t continue selling TV sets [the way we have been]. Every TV set we all make loses money.

His company, Stringer said, spent the last five years creating an ecosystem to take on Apple, even though the company had seen little success with the Google TV platform and other connected television efforts:
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