Just yesterday, my boyfriend I were driving home from New Hampshire and he asked me to send a text message to our friend. As I fumbled around for his phone, he said, “Wait! Let’s have Siri do it.” I don’t own a smartphone and will avoid doing so as long as possible, but I fully admit to the convenience of pretty much everyone I know having one. I get to satisfy my curiosity (and often raise my ire) by playing with friends’ smartphones — it’s kind of like bumming a cigarette here and there without ever buying a pack. To be honest, I don’t know that I’ve ever heard my boyfriend use Siri, so I was excited to give it a whirl. But it turns out that Siri wasn’t available in our current location, which wasn’t far from civilization at all. I guess Siri isn’t a fan of the White Mountain region? I got to think about how realistic Her felt, but how far we actually are from developing AI with anything approaching that level of intelligence and awareness. And apparently I’m not the only one with those thoughts — Viv Labs, a startup created by three of Siri’s creators, is set to release an AI that blows Siri out of the water.
Siri is limited in part because everything she can do was specifically programmed by Apple. She can fulfill discrete tasks, but can’t perform multi-step tasks or couple tasks together, largely because her programmers didn’t explicitly articulate those different combinations. The new AI, called Viv, is designed to learn and essentially teach itself, establishing connections between requests and steps based on the user’s preferences, as well as experience, writing its own code in milliseconds in response to requests.
Viv Labs has been working on Viv for over two years now, staying under the radar. The field of artificial intelligence is growing by leaps and bounds, and includes players such as Google, Facebook, and DARPA. Viv Labs want to be the first to deliver virtually limitless AI to a consumer market, and hope their product will be integrated into all kinds of platforms, much like Siri is, but to an even greater extent. They call Viv a “global brain” that can connect people to people, objects, and knowledge.
I’m not sure anyone will literally fall in love with Viv (though, these days, never say never), but if the product is successful, it’s poised to revolutionize the app market, the AI market, and a bunch of other markets. And even if Viv doesn’t fit the bill, the new X-Prize for AI will almost certainly find one that does. The next generation of AI will change the way people live and think, but hopefully not by making thinking obsolete.