Siri, Apple’s “personal digital assistant,” is pretty cool, but it does look a little … dated after the preview of Viv this week. Since the team behind Viv is the same team who originated Siri, perhaps history could repeat itself, and Apple could scoop up Viv.
Apple acquired Siri Inc., the company behind the Speech Interpretation and Recognition Interface (yep, Siri) on April 28, 2010, for more than $200 million. Siri, Inc. had announced that their software would be available for BlackBerry and for phones running Android, but all development efforts for non-Apple platforms were cancelled after the acquisition by Apple. All these years later, the digital assistant is still only available on iOS devices, though a Mac version is rumored to be announced at next month’s Apple Worldwide Developer Conference.
Last week Siri creators Dag Kittlaus and Adam Cheyer — who left Apple shortly after their company was scooped up — debuted Viv, the natural descendent of Siri — and more advanced that Apple’s technology. Through the power of natural language processing skills, Viv understands complex, layered commands. It’s an an AI virtual system that aims to be “the intelligent interface for everything.”
Want to send flowers to a friend, an e-commerce transaction that typically requires the use of more than one app or service to execute? Viv can do it, diving into your contacts for your friend's address, connecting to your payment app to access your credit card information, showing you the offerings at various florists, and taking care of the purchase once you've made your decision. It can even answer a somewhat convoluted question like, “Will it be warmer than 70-degrees near the Golden gate bridge after 5pm the day after tomorrow?”
As opposed to short term memory platforms like Siri, Viv was able to embrace follow-up questions without stuttering or gasping for context that was just said seconds before. It’s also an open system that enables developers to plug into and create an intelligent, conversational interface to anything.
The Viv team has already teamed up with 50 companies such as Grubhub, SeatGuru, and Uber. Kittlaus says they’re also talking with auto makers, TV companies, and media firms about partnerships.
Unlike similar systems such as Amazon Echo or Google Now, which resort to a Web search when they encounter requests they don't know how to execute, Viv generates her own code to find a solution.
The Washington Post reports that Google and Facebook have made offers to buy Viv. But why shouldn’t Apple step up to the plate instead? It certainly has the money.