Viv, the widely anticipated artificial intelligence technology from the creators of Siri, made its public debut in New York on Monday, and it didn’t disappoint.
Dag Kittlaus, co-founder and chief executive of Viv, took the stage at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference to put Viv through its paces as a personal digital assistant in a live demo. Kittlaus and co-founder Adam Cheyer, both veterans of SRI, were profiled in Wired.
In brief, Viv was able to tell Kittlaus about the weather conditions at home, a relatively easy query because Viv was already trained to know where “home” is before calling out to Weather Underground to get the local conditions.
But from there, things got harder.
Another question: “Will it be warmer than 70 degrees near the Golden Gate Bridge after 5 p.m. tomorrow?” introduced several layers of complexity that Viv was able to navigate. Kittlaus explained how using Nuance (nuan) Communications technology converted the sounds he made into on-screen words, enabling Viv to apply natural language understanding to figure out his intent.
Then Viv’s secret sauce, a program generator, kicks in. This technology takes the question and the user’s intent, quickly drafting software code that calls the services needed (Weather Underground, a calendar, time zone converter, travel site, whatever) to generate the layout of the screen and the dialog.
“In ten milliseconds, Viv wrote a 44-step program regarding that Golden Gate Bridge query connecting all the services needed,” he said. This, he described, is basically self-written code.
Another example: “Send Adam 20 bucks for the drinks last night.” Based on Viv’s knowledge of the user—meaning the system knows who Adam is and how to reach him—it called up the Venmo payment service and completed the transaction.
Unlike Siri, Viv will not be restricted to Apple (aapl) products, which as popular as they might be, represent a small subset of the device universe. Kittlaus has much bigger ambitions for Viv to be what he called “the intelligent interface to anything.” In the era of Internet of things, which will harness an estimated 20 billion connected devices by 2020, that’s a humongous addressable market.
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Right now, Viv is on its own, but it may not stay that way. Facebook (fb) and Google (goog) have reportedly made offers to buy the company. In this competitive world of artificial intelligence, all the major tech players including Apple and Microsoft (msft) are looking for hot technologies.