Siri's Origins

Siri's Origins

When iPhone 4S users ask a question of Siri, the smartphone's female-voiced personal assistant app, they are tapping into technologies with DNA that can be traced, in part, to Carnegie Mellon University.

"Siri's actually a really great project that's based on ideas that were developed over the past decade or so at CMU and elsewhere," said Alex Rudnicky, research professor in the Computer Science Department.

Rudnicky was one of the principal investigators for a project called Cognitive Agent that Learns and Observes, or CALO, run by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

Several other CMU scientists were involved in CALO, which was was focused on creating a digital personal assistant that could anticipate and help meet a user's needs, find information on the Internet and perform tasks such as taking notes of meetings.

CALO was run by SRI International and included researchers at a number of universities. After the program concluded in 2007, SRI spun-off Siri, which Apple acquired last year.

"It's hard for us to claim any bit of code in Siri," he added, "but the kinds of things we talked about (during CALO) may have made SRI realize that this was possible."

Carnegie Mellon's School of Computer Science (SCS) is one of the world's premier institutions for computer science research and education.

From the beginnings of "thinking computers" through today's intelligent tutors, our award-winning faculty, researchers and students are internationally known for consistently developing new methods and technologies that have an enduring impact on academic, scientific and commercial endeavors.

Innovations such as speech recognition software, Internet search engines and the precursor of the Mac OS-X operating system can trace their roots to the interdisciplinary and collaborative environment of SCS and the technologically advanced CMU campus.



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