Siri Inc. Launches 'Do Engine' Application For iPhone
Siri Inc., whose technology was born out of the largest
artificial-intelligence project ever launched, has released an
application for the iPhone that company executives say will take
voice-activated search to a new level.
"It's more of a 'do engine' than a search engine," Chief
Executive Dag Kittlaus said. "You just ask your phone to do things
Spun out from a Stanford University research lab a couple of
years ago, San Jose-based Siri had been raising venture capital and
adding prominent VCs to its board of directors while it kept a
tight lid on the technology it was developing.
But now the company's virtual-personal assistant is available
for the iPhone, and soon will be available for the BlackBerry and
for Android-powered phones, Kittlaus said.
While voice-search products are becoming more common, Siri
stands apart because of the "cognitive software" that is combined
with advanced speech recognition technology, the chief executive
said. Cognitive software returns more targeted search results over
time, getting "smarter" as it learns a user's preferences.
Unlike other voice-search programs, Siri performs tasks--for
instance finding restaurants, movies, plane tickets or ATMs for the
user. The user simply says, "Find me a plane ticket to New York
next Friday," for example, and Siri will serve up some suggestions.
If a user asks where he can get his haircut, Siri can offer
suggestions within walking distance of that person's current
"There's nothing else like this out there," Kittlaus said.
Siri's app is connected to a whole ecosystem of Web services and
programming interfaces, company materials said. Additionally, Siri
has partnered with voice-activation company Nuance Communications
Inc. (NUAN), so the user can get a plethora of Web results simply
by speaking a command into the phone, or asking a question.
Siri is building variations on a technology developed by
nonprofit research-and-development company SRI International, which
several years ago led a $200 million research project on artificial
intelligence, funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects
SRI's contribution to the project was the Cognitive Assistant
that Learns and Organizes, or CALO, Kittlaus said. CALO brought
together language-processing functions with cognitive software,
according to company materials.
Siri has raised about $24 million from Menlo Ventures and
Morgenthaler Ventures, according to VentureWire records. Kittlaus
said the company also raised funding from Li Ka Shing
(Dow Jones VentureWire covers news about venture capital
investing and start-up companies.)
-By Timothy Hay, Dow Jones VentureWire; 415-439-6625;