Friday, July 20, 2012

Reconciling Science Fiction And Reality In Mobile And Social: Siri, AI, and Search

Our devices are already smaller and easier to use than a lot of what Captain Kirk or the guys on Star Wars had.  Sure, our "communicators" are not able to communicate with a starship but we could link up with the ISS.  And certainly, with its communication devices or tablets, our devices definitely look sleeker.

At first, I could have steered this post towards how we have come science fiction tech here already today but I would like to examine just we are we are from technology that have not been realized yet today that exists only on TV or movies.

Let's start with voice commands.  Google voice search is very enticing as is Siri but neither is anything close to Hal or the Enterprise's computer (but Siri does have a better personality than the computer or Hal).  And while Apple likes to talk about the artificial intelligence behind Siri, I really don't know if we are really that close to Hal, the Enterprise computer, or even the computer in War Games as far as the sophistication and intelligence.

I'm not expecting Siri to be like Data in Star Trek or the droids in Star Wars that has even the most rudimentary level of awareness but as far as true learning, we are far, far away still.  However, given our ingenuity, we can disguise it so well that end users could potentially be fooled into thinking that future voice interactive systems are actually conscious and capable of learning.  In reality, it's still human engineers upgrading hardware and tweaking codes.

In this instance, we can quite possibly come close in the next four to five years as competition between Apple, Google, Microsoft, and even IBM heats up.  Today's Siri and Google Now will look like the idiot children in the realm of AI compared to what's to come.  As a matter of fact, I really think IBM has a huge role to play in all this - its Deep Blue that was followed by Watson.  And work on the sucessor to Watson has continued.

Enough about Siri.  What about Google and Microsoft's answers and will they also have awesome apps like Siri?  I've mentioned this in the past:  Google isn't likely to have an app that works like Siri because of the nature of its business model.  Siri could potentially put a big dent in Google's ad search revenue and coming out with a Siri competitor will only exacerbate the situation.

That really leave Microsoft.  I think it really has the ability to copy, improve, and even innovate a bit on works on top of its Bing search engine with a bit of Siri-like features.

So, the march towards true AI-like abilities looks rosy, I still wouldn't call anything we'll be using a few years from now having real awareness but enough that it can fool us into thinking that a little person truly lives in our  mobile devices.

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