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Is Siri Understanding?

Yesterday, July 28th, 2012, Tech Crunch’s Nadav Gur wrote an excellent article on what it is, exactly, that Siri and any spinoffs need to do to become true virtual personal assistants.  The article, From Information to Understanding: Moving Beyond Search In The Age of Siri, details the benefits of a true aid in our search for knowledge which requires, to some extent, understanding what we are looking for when we speak.

Siri, for those of you unfamiliar with the technology, is the virtual personal assistant, or artificial intelligence (Ai) feature, built into the current iPhone 4S.  I think the article speaks for itself  and won’t go into depth in citing it but would like to highlight a few concepts in it that I think we can all agree with once we have a deeper understanding of the subject.

On the surface, Siri can be considered a cute little feature of the iPhone 4S and, soon, the iPad third generation, the iPad 7 (my handle for an expected 7″ iPad model in the not too distant future), and, most likely, most new iOS devices from here on out for the foreseeable future.  But a deeper exploration would prove the notion of her being just a feature, to be false.

Siri, in reality, is anything but a cute little add-on.  She is, in the true sense of the words, Artificial Intelligence beyond that previously accessible to the average person on the street.  We speak and she, not only, listens but attempts to comprehend to the extent that she can predict exactly what it is that we are looking for contextually.  In use, we may become frustrated that she doesn’t seem to “Get It” when we say something, but that may very well be because she is trying to do so much more than “Get It”, she is attempting to understand and interpret exactly what we want.

Upon closer examination, that’s pretty amazing stuff and the type of thing that was in sci fi movies and books that we, as baby boomers, enjoyed while growing up.  In those days, that type of “Robot” notion was pretty far fetched, but in 2012 it has become a very common reality.

I think back in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s, we knew we’d be in for some pretty mind bending stuff in the future being on the brink of atomic and nuclear power and space exploration to name a few of our firsts.  But even then, did we really expect this to happen in our life times, to the extent, and at the speed that it is happening today?  I know I watch these things develop enthralled with the continuing array of new technology.

So, to answer the question, “Is Siri Understanding?”, I’d have to say that this model of Ai is a working model at the forefront of what will develop to be a true comprehending and responsive evolution in the future.  I believe that, to some degree, Siri does understand what we’re saying and attempts to predict what we’re looking for.  Siri, and the newly introduced Android equivalent, Google Now, need to be seen and tested to be appreciated.  Will they replace an individual’s personal enjoyment of the quest for learning and finding new things on their own and quenching that thirst for knowledge that most human’s possess? I doubt it.  Will they make future generations lazy or too dependent on new technologies to think for themselves?  I hope not.  But are they here to stay?  Probably.  Kick back and join me in watching, with fascination, these creations of younger generations which are moving at a staggering pace.


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