Siri may have debuted on an iPhone, but Apple missed a chance to take the technology even further in the new iPad.
Siri has grown considerably since it was an iPhone application. The Siri app, which similarly understood conversations with its user to provide accurate answers, was originally a spinoff of a project co-developed by SRI Ventures and the Department of Defense's innovation arm called DARPA, or the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. The project was called CALO, which stood for Cognitive Assistant that Learns and Organizes, and it was the largest artificial intelligence project in U.S. history, with DARPA investing $150 million into CALO over five years.
The project later raised $24 million in two rounds of funding, led by Menlo Ventures and Morgenthaler Ventures, and was launched as an iPhone app on Feb. 4, 2010. Apple quietly bought the app two months later for an undisclosed sum.
Apple has started a whole new paradigm with real AI... for the benefit of people, said Norman Winarsky, VP of SRI Ventures and the original co-founder of Siri. I think it's a great achievement of Steve Jobs and all of Apple.
Winarsky says Apple has made Siri far more intelligent, and has bestowed the personal assistant with more power so she can access the device owner's personal information, contact list and calendar.
Siri needed to be bought by Apple for that to happen, Winarsky said. Because of that, you can ask questions and arrange meetings and find your music... things that you couldn't have done in Siri before.
Siri has been the most popular feature on the iPhone 4S by far, driving the smartphone to record sales since its Oct. 14 release date. A ChangeWave Research survey of 215 iPhone 4S owners found that 96 percent of respondents were very satisfied or satisfied with the iPhone 4S, and about half of those said Siri was the reason why.
It's faster, simpler, more effective and more time-saving than talking to a person, Winarsky said. I think people will like that more than they dislike talking to a computer.
When Apple released the iPhone 4S, Scott Forstall, Apple's VP of mobile operations, warned that Siri was still in beta. The software isn't perfect, only works with a Wi-Fi connection and still has yet to add support for more languages like Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Italian and Spanish, but the current software could definitely shine on the iPad, even more so than on the iPhone. On Wednesday, Apple CEO Tim Cook announced Siri would speak Japanese as apart of the iOS 5.1 update, which goes live today.
Why Siri on iPad Makes Sense
The one gripe about Siri is that it's, well, embarrassing to use. Prior to the iPad announcement, there was no way to ask Siri questions without speaking to it out loud, and to make matters worse, Siri makes your business public with out loud responses. It's considerably embarrassing if Siri announces your incoming texts and calls in public, from, say, your mom.
Apple originally wanted Siri in the hands of the most people -- more people own smartphones than tablets, after all - but iPads for business, education, and productivity purposes. Given that Siri is also designed to boost one's production by helping the user become better organized, the technology, when paired for with iPad, has incredible potential.
An iPad with Siri could have a tremendous impact on education. Imagine a student holding an iPad. The iPad could read aloud a selection from a new iBooks textbook, or remind the student to study for an upcoming test. If a textbook doesn't answer the student's question, they could simply ask Siri, which could then search its own database or try a Web search.
iPads in schools are helping kids learn in amazing new ways, said Apple CEO Tim Cook at the iPhone 4S unveiling. iPads can change the way teachers teach and kids learn. Almost 1,000 K-12 schools have a 1-to-1 program so a kid can enjoy the iPad for the entire day. And it's not just happening in K-12; higher ed is also doing this. About 1,000 universities across the U.S., including schools like Stanford, Notre Dame, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Chicago, all have iPad programs.
More importantly, Siri could aid people and children with learning disabilities like never before.
Since the first iPad first debuted in April 2010, educators have praised the tablet for its ability to attract children and actually advance their overall cognitive development. The iPad has dozens of available apps that aid in fine-tuning social skills, motor skills, sensory skills, and communication and language skills. Therapists, autism experts, and parents have called iPad a near-miracle device.
By adding Siri into an iPad, the device could help its young user navigate the tablet and answer questions the child has.
Beyond the classroom, Siri for iPad can be a boon for professional settings, too. Imagine sitting in an office with an iPad instead of a traditional PC. The iPad already helps users write and share documents, track of financial data and create ready-to-go slide presentations, but Siri can also remind employees of meetings, help them perform research, or even set timers if they're working on a deadline. Because of the tablet's flexibility, the iPad can be perfect for all business settings, from small start-ups to large enterprises and beyond.
In the cockpit, pilots are using [iPads], Cook said. They're replacing 40-pound flight bags full of paper manuals and log books and navigation charts and checklists, making the pilot more efficient and making the plane more fuel efficient. [iPads] are also showing up in hospitals, where medical professionals are using them to access patient records, review medical images, to administer bedside care.
Yet, there's still so much more Siri could do. Hopefully in the near future, Siri will be able to plug into APIs from useful services like OpenTable, MovieTickets.com, and Stubhub -- which the original app could do, interestingly enough. But yet, the potential of an iPad with Siri is virtually endless.
If Siri could ever partner with Wikipedia, or if it could integrate with WebMD's symptom checker, users would be more inclined and less embarrassed to use the platform. But even better, if Siri could remember our preferences -- which is not unheard of in the technology realm -- Siri could fulfill one's shopping needs, news needs, music needs, and even more. Putting Siri on the iPhone 4S got the technology out to more people. But Siri on the iPad could be a powerful tool that would distance Apple even further from the competition -- in a good way.
Unfortunately, Apple missed the boat. Siri is not in the new iPad, which could have used a boost from the interesting AI technology. The new tablet is still a beautiful device with some incredible features, but Siri would have been an excellent addition. Apple did not say why Siri was a no-show, but it was probably because the A5X chip could only handle the new LTE and the Retina Display, but no more. Hopefully, Apple will build future chips that can handle high-speed network connections like LTE, a powerful Retina Display, and even Siri.