Siri co-founder Norman Winarksy says Assistant will be “world changing event”

Mon, Oct 3, 2011

News, Rumors

The centerpiece of Apple’s special media event tomorrow will likely be Apple’s voice recognition feature in iOS 5 dubbed Assistant. The feature was reportedly built on Siri, a startup acquired back in 2009.

Now, 9to5Mac has an extremely interesting interview with Siri co-founder Norman Winarsky who unabashedly raises expectations for tomorrow’s announcement. Notably, Winarsky points out that Apple finalized the deal to acquire Siri just two months after the app went public – which for a company as acquisition averse as Apple, really speaks volumes about the seriousness with which they’re taking voice recognition.

With respect to the processing power Siri requires, Winarsky writes:

The Siri software needs to cache data, needs to access a big data set at wide bandwidth and needs a big processor to crunch all of the numbers. When we originally released Siri for the iPhone 3GS, we had to perform all kinds of optimizations and shortcuts to get it to work efficiently. All I can say is that it will likely run much better on a faster phone.

That said, it’s been reported that Apple’s Assistant feature will only run on Apple’s next-gen iPhone 4S because it requires an A5 processor and at least 1GB of RAM – two things which the iPhone 4 lacks.

And here’s where things get intriguing.

Let me first say I have no knowledge of what Apple plans to do with the Siri purchase. I read the rumors just like everyone else and it appears that Apple is getting ready to reveal what it has done with Siri over the past year and a half (we were actually expecting it at WWDC). Make no mistake: Apple’s ‘mainstreaming’ Artificial Intelligence in the form of a Virtual Personal Assistant is a groundbreaking event. I’d go so far as to say it is a World-Changing event. Right now a few people dabble in partial AI enabled apps like Google Voice Actions, Vlingo or Nuance Go. Siri was many iterations ahead of these technologies, or at least it was two years ago. This is REAL AI with REAL market use. If the rumors are true, Apple will enable millions upon millions of people to interact with machines with natural language. The PAL will get things done and this is only the tip of the iceberg. We’re talking another technology revolution. A new computing paradigm shift

It reminds me of another SRI Project: Doug Engelbart, Inventor of Mouse augmented human ability back in the ’60s. Just as Steve Jobs took that technology and ran with it, we believe that Apple will use Siri to start another revolution.

Mighty bold words from a man who likely isn’t prone to hyperbole.

We’ll all be watching intently tomorrow.



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