Among the features included in the new Apple iPhone4S there is a personal assistant called SIRI. It uses speech recognition and artificial intelligence. It offers a tight integration to the iPhone's built-in apps by creating a "personal assistant".
SIRI was not developed by Apple but was a recent acquisition. It was a spin-off project from a DARPA-funded project called CALO. This was a five-year initiative involving 300 researchers to adapt AI technologies to create a "cognitive assistant" – which is a good way to describe what SIRI delivers.
CALO was an Artificial Intelligence project funded by DARPA under its Personalized Assistant that Learns (PAL) program. It was a well-funded five-year contract, which brought together researchers from US top university and commercial research institutions. The goal was to build a new generation of cognitive assistants that can reason, learn from experience, be told what to do, explain what they are doing, reflect on their experience and respond robustly to surprises. SRI International was the lead integrator responsible for coordinating these efforts.
SIRI sends messages, sets up reminders and searches for information. It understands not only conversational speech but also the meaning of sentences. In this way unstructured talk can be used for natural communications. SIRI can use information that is already in the iPhone—such as a person’s GPS location, contacts and relationships—in order to provide personal assistance.
For instance, SIRI can:
1. Uses machine learning algorithms to build a model of who works on which projects, what role they play, how important they are and how specified documents are related.
2. Can help a user put together new documents by using what has been learned about the structure and content from previous documents accessed in the past.
3. Assist a user how to interact with people, both in electronic forums (e.g. email) and in meetings. It can automatically generate a meeting transcript, tracks action item assignments and detect what are the roles of participants.
4. Automate routine tasks such as travel authorizations. It can be taught new procedures and tasks by observing and interacting with the user. It can a person’s preferences for getting things done while managing a busy schedule.
From the standpoint of DoD tactical warfare operations the SIRI technology offers capabilities that vastly exceed what is currently available to our war fighters. By offering unstructured interactive voice conversations the military can now proceed to replace the current radio chatter that fills bandwidth especially if a unit is under attack. The ability to “train” hand-held devices that fit into a shirt pocket to answer specific queries makes it possible to simplify how command and control of forces can be applied.
Voice recognition makes a SIRI device adaptable to the characteristics of a soldier’s speech pattern.
The Apple is the first one with an offering of an intelligent communicator based on DARPA innovations. However, there is no question that other smart-phone firms will be also coming out with new features such devices that deliver added security safeguards.
The new Apple 4S device costing $299, weighing 4.9 ounces, sized 2.3 by 4.5 inches, with an 8 megapixel camera, a built-in GPS and 200 hrs. of standby power is ideal for Special and Expeditionary forces engaged in asymmetric warfare.
When viewed from the standpoint of the history of information technology this first commercial availability of an intelligent “personal assistant” should be recognized as a revolutionary event. Such devices will offer solutions that will have major effects on the ways the military can now shift to new class of battlefield computing devices.