Virtual Personal Assistants (VPAs) represent the next generation interaction paradigm for the Internet. In today’s paradigm, we follow links on search results. With a VPA, we interact by having a conversation. We tell the assistant what we want to do, and it applies multiple services and information sources to help accomplish our task. Like a real assistant, a VPA is personal; it uses information about an individual’s preferences and interaction history to help solve specific tasks, and it gets better with experience.
Siri is the first mainstream consumer application of a Virtual Personal Assistant. Siri is an intelligent software agent designed to have a back-and-forth conversational interaction with you as it helps you get tasks done. The three main technical components behind Siri’s differentiation correspond to the essential qualities of an assistant: a conversational interface, personal context awareness and service delegation.
You can converse with Siri through combinations of spoken requests, typed keywords and phrases, or graphical user interface requests. As you express what you want to do in the way most comfortable to you, Siri applies a patented algorithm to sift through multitudes of possible interpretations, applying what it knows about your location, the time, your preferences, and your task context to determine the most probable understanding of your intent. Your dialog with Siri is displayed in an innovative user interface that leverages a hybrid of familiar chat-style and search-result interface paradigms, optimized for small form factors and limited bandwidth environments.
Personal Context Awareness
A virtual assistant gives different answers depending on individual preferences and personal context (place, time, history), and if you give it permission, learns more about you so that it can shorten your time-to-task.. Information you teach Siri in one domain (e.g. movies) is applied automatically to opportunities rising from other domains. Any personal information you provide Siri is stored in a highly secure, PCI-compliant co-location center, and used only with your explicit permission to accelerate your task completion.
An assistant can reason about what specific set of resources or services would best be combined to help you accomplish a particular task. Siri’s patented service delegation algorithms combine numerous attributes about each service provider, including quality scores, fine-grained ratings for specific capabilities, speed measures, and geographic constraints, to plan and execute an optimized strategy for handling your request. Live data is pulled fresh from source sites and world-changing actions are handled in a transaction-safe manner. For example, in a restaurant selection task, Siri integrates information from many sources (local business directories, geospatial databases, restaurant guides, restaurant review sources, menu sites, online reservation services and the user’s own favorites) to show results that meet the user’s natural language request.
from siri.com circa 2010
For more information:
Tom Gruber (2010). Big Think Small Screen: How semantic computing in the cloud will revolutionize the consumer experience on the phone. Keynote presentation at Web 3.0 conference, January 27, 2010.
Tom Gruber. (2009) Tom Gruber. Siri: A Virtual Personal Assistant. Keynote presentation at Semantic Technologies conference (SemTech09), June 16, 2009.
Tom Gruber. (2008) Tom Gruber. Intelligence at the Interface: Semantic Technology and the Consumer Internet Experience. Presentation at Semantic Technologies conference (SemTech08), May 20, 2008.