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Tom Gruber talks about Siri, the Virtual Personal Assistant

Image representing Siri as depicted in CrunchBase
Image via CrunchBase

Tom Gruber will be one of the keynotes at the Semantic Technology Conference in San Jose next week, and there’s a lot of interest in what he’s likely to show. I spoke to Tom yesterday to learn more, and the result has just been released as a podcast.

Well known in the Artificial Intelligence research community, and perhaps better known to the Web world as Founder of RealTravel, Tom is now CTO and co-Founder of Siri.

Siri itself came to notice back in October, when a company previously going by the name Stealth Company announced itself to the world. The intervening months have seen the team hard at work to deliver on their vision, prior to once again coming to wider attention in the past week or two with appearances at All Things Digital and (next week) the Semantic Technology Conference. Interest in the tech media has clearly been piqued, with several posts on TechCrunch, and write-ups in BusinessWeek and the New York Times.

Production of this podcast was supported by Talis, and show notes will appear on their Nodalities blog shortly.

As Tom’s abstract for next week notes,

“We are beginning to see a new interaction paradigm for the web: the Virtual Personal Assistant (VPA). A VPA is task focused: it helps you get things done. You interact with it in natural language, in a conversation. It gets to know you, acts on your behalf, and gets better with time. The VPA paradigm builds on the information and services of the web, with new technical challenges of semantic intent understanding, context awareness, service delegation, and mass personalization.

Siri is a virtual personal assistant for the mobile Internet. Although just in its infancy, Siri can help with some common tasks that human assistants do, such as booking a restaurant, getting tickets to a show, and inviting a friend.”

Siri’s first incarnation will be in the form of an iPhone app, which Tom describes in the podcast.

Have a listen, and see whether you think a VPA will become an essential part of your mobile life anytime soon…

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Paul Miller works at the interface between the worlds of Cloud Computing and the Semantic Web, providing the insights that enable you to exploit the next wave as we approach the World Wide Database.

He blogs at www.cloudofdata.com.