Friday, January 6, 2012

History of Siri: How it Came to be What it is Today

Siri, our much-loved personal assistant on our iPhone, is not a new-born creation.
She has a history that dates back prior to April 28, 2010 (when it was acquired by Apple).

Wondering what gave birth to this adorable creature, I did some searching on the web, and here’s what I found:

Siri was founded in 2007 by Dag Kittlaus (CEO), Adam Cheyer (VP Engineering), and Tom Gruber (CTO/VP Design), together with Norman Winarsky from SRI International’s venture group.

SRI International (the Stanford Research Institute) in Menlo Park, California, dates back to 1946 and was established by the trustees of Stanford University. This non-profit institute supports economic development in the region as a center of innovation. The mission of SRI is the discovery and application of science and technology for knowledge, commerce, prosperity, and peace.

On October 13, 2008, Siri raised $8.5 million in investments from Menlo Ventures and Morgenthaler Ventures. In November 2009, it raised another $15.5 million from the same investors, but especially the Hong-Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing.

Menlo Ventures, founded in 1976, has invested in other companies and projects such as 3PAR, Ironport Systems, Playspan, Coraid, and Vidyo. Morgenthaler invests in companies like Evernote, NexTag, imeem, and Cortina Systems.

Li Ka-Shing is the world’s eleventh richest person at $26 billion net worth. He’s the richest East Asian person, and was named "Asia’s Most Powerful Man" by Asiaweek in 2001.

In terms of R&D, Siri is backed by 40 years of research funded by DARPA to SRI International’s Artificial Intelligence Center that developed the CALO (Cognitive Agent that Learns and Organizes Programs). This is also the crystallization of research from institutions such as Carnegie Mellon, University of Massachusetts, University of Rochester, and USC.

Siri, our closest friend (yes, physically too), didn’t just come from nowhere. It came from our nation’s most prestigious university, Stanford’s premier research institute, that has been funded by the government’s think tank DARPA. It was also funded by the best investment companies in the US and by East Asia’s wealthiest and most powerful person.

Of course, Apple’s the one who bought Siri and commercialized her, but sometimes knowing her history gives us that much more appreciation towards our iPhones.

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