In 1987, then CEO of Apple John Sculley described a device known as the “Knowledge Navigator” in his book Odyssey. Described in its simplest terms, it was a personal assistant that allowed the user to navigate information in an interactive way. The user would be able to speak in natural language, and the artificial intelligence would reason out the intention of the user. Watch it in action in this vintage Apple-produced video.
As you can see, the interaction is very human-like. The command-based method of interaction –which is so common in the voice recognition platforms of today — is nowhere to be found. This method is just not the way the average person thinks. While us techies may think in this manner, everyday consumerS would be more comfortable talking to the device because they don’t have to remember a set of commands.
This is why voice recognition systems are so frustrating to many. Wouldn’t you rather say, “Siri, schedule an appointment with Tom for 4:30pm on Thursday” versus something similar to “New appointment, Tom, Tuesday, 4:30pm”? I mean, who talks like that?
This is why Siri is such a groundbreaking move in human-to-computer based interaction.
Add to the fact that you can ask questions of Siri that may be outside of what you’d typically think of using voice recognition for, say for something like “how many cups are in twelve ounces?” and it’s almost like having something right out of Star Trek in the palm of your hand.
This is what these voice interaction services are missing. Sure, Windows Phone has it, and Android does something similar. But neither have been able to shake the addiction to the command method of input. Siri–which started as an SRI research project and then became a startup that Apple acquired last year–is a game changer.
While this is only the beginning, Siri could behave even more like Knowledge Navigator over time, and actually anticipate what you’re looking for before you ask for it.
Either way, you have to hand it to Apple. Without Siri, the iPhone 4S would have been a major disappointment when it comes to announcements. But once people get this in their hands, I think its going to be a huge selling point.
This really is revolutionary, and John Sculley deserves a lot of credit for spearheading this concept this some 24 years ago. Were the Apple execs thinking of this video as they took the stage today? They should have been..