Siri, or Watson, or Jarvis

OCTOBER 18 2012

A few days ago as I was walking to work I decided to use Siri to send a message to my girlfriend. I was in a bit of a rush so I used Siri’s dictation ability as I hurried down the street:

“Message Shirley Hey can you grab an onion while you’re at the market today?”

Siri replied, “I have two contacts named Shirley.”

I begrudgingly looked down at the screen and tapped on the correct one.

Siri replied again, “Ok, here’s your message to Shirley. Should I send it?”

I said “Yes,” and off the message went.

It was definitely better than typing as I walked – but at the same time it was such a robotic experience. You see, I believe that Siri is the right step into the future, albeit a premature one. The experience isn’t ready for prime time because nobody likes talking to a machine. Siri should have known I only talk to one of the Shirleys on a regular basis. I should have not had to say “Yes” to send my message, nevertheless having to press+hold the home button to begin the dialogue in the first place.

Even though the current experience is a clunky one, using natural language to interface with our technology is a huge step. But there are even more exciting things on the horizon.

These days, everybody is talking about big data. From IBM’s big data website:

Every day, we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data — so much that 90% of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years alone. This data comes from everywhere: sensors used to gather climate information, posts to social media sites, digital pictures and videos, purchase transaction records, and cell phone GPS signals to name a few. This data is big data.

72 hours of video uploaded to YouTube a minute. 250 million tweets a day. 300 million Facebook photos uploaded a day. That’s only “social media,” and that number keeps growing. Think about how much medical, scientific, economic, and municipal data there is as well. What do we do with all this data? What really excites me is what can be inferred by all of it.

There are companies like Prior Knowledge that are creating APIs to help companies “Predict product purchases from consumer data” or “Assess disease risk”. That’s powerful.

Watson, the AI that beat the two toughest Jeopardy players in the history of the show, will soon fit into your smartphone. As Bernie Meyerson, IBM’s VP of innovation, said– one day, a farmer could stand in a field and ask his phone “When should I plant my corn?” He would get a reply in seconds, based on location data, historical trends and scientific studies.

Think about how simple–yet powerful– that is. “When should I plant my corn?”

Often times we joke about how far-fetched scifi can be, but in this case, I don’t think it’s that far off. In the movie Iron Man, Tony Stark has a computer named Jarvis with which he has converations. We can’t have conversations with Siri. But in the future we’ll be able to.

One day, Siri, or Watson, or Jarvis, or whatever it’ll be called, will always know when to be helpful and how to make our lives better. We’ll have conversations with our technology that will help us solve problems we didn’t even know we had. And that excites me.