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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Evolution of Search: Siri, the "Do" Engine

Posted By on Tue, Feb 9, 2010 at 8:50 AM

While it was definitely sweet, Google's Super Bowl "Parisian love" ad was a pointed reminder that search has not seen any major transformations over the last decade. For as long as we've searched on the web, we've pretty much had the same experience: plug in some words, get a list to parse, rinse, repeat. Search has been mostly about perusal, with the onus put on the searcher to do the transactional work that follows, if necessary. But how about closing that loop? Enter Siri, an unassuming voice-recognition-based "personal assistant" app that hints at a different search experience focused on transactions.

Created as part of an artificial intelligence project called CALO (Cognitive Agent that Learns and Organizes), Siri lets you make verbal requests to your iPhone -- like booking a restaurant reservation, movie tickets or a taxi ride - an then interprets your question and sources answers via third-party services like Open Table, StubHub, Taxi Magic and Yelp. So it not only understands language, it also has the ability to delegate tasks and learn as you use it -- so that it's better and quicker at interpreting your requests over time. But you really have to see it in action; watch the video below. The app is free (it currently makes money via small fees from transactions like movie-ticket purchases), so you should play with it yourself.


What's interesting about Siri is that even though it's not a search

engine -- and doesn't intend to replace that -- it reflects a different

type of expectation out of search. It marries the search experience

with the interpretation intelligence required to understand what you

intend to do with the information you're searching for.


at the moment the app is not really relevant when, say, you'd like to

do some in-depth research, in the context of every-day transactions,

it's arguably an early prototype of the next generation search engine -

or a 'do' engine, as the service dubs itself. It will be interesting to

see what grows out of this - not just of Siri as it grows to cover more

ground, but of other potential services that emerge out of this type of

experience and resulting consumer expectation. Who knows? Perhaps

within the next few years, Google's "Parisian love" ad will be

something of an artifact.

Follow us in Twitter at @mbaratz and @sfweekly.

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Maya Baratz


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