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Opening Siri to developers should make the A.I. system smarter

Sharon Gaudin | June 15, 2016
Apple hopes to make Siri less of a joke and more of a real assistant.

Anant Jhingran, CTO of API technology provider Apigee and former team lead for IBM's Watson, told Computerworld that the key to making any A.I.-based or machine learning technology smarter is to feed it more information.

One of the basics of machine learning and A.I. systems is that the more information they're fed, the smarter they get.

Jhingran said it only makes sense that the more data that's fed into Siri, the more questions it's posed, the more information it's asked to find, the better it will get at being a smart assistant.

"In the world of A.I., you see a lot more. You observe a lot more. You learn a lot more," Jhingran said. "The more Siri can connect with human beings, the better it will get. And in order to do that, Apple cannot depend on people pressing the mic button… If Siri was working behind the scenes with an American Airlines app, for example, Siri gets to see my dialogue that she wouldn't have seen otherwise."

That is what could happen when third-party developers get their hands on Siri.

Siri could become the engine that answers questions, finds information and orders things like pizzas and plane tickets – all inside other apps.

"The apps are better because they're powered by Siri, and Siri is better because it sees a lot more," Jhingran said. "That will power a lot more innovation… The beauty of all this is the more accessible it is, the more difference it makes."

Google has an advantage over its competitors because it has so much data on people around the world that can be fed into its smart systems to make them smarter.

However, that doesn't leave Google and its smart systems out of Jhingran's recommendation that all smart digital assistants be opened up to third-party developers.

"That's the only way A.I. will make a difference to the rank and file," he explained. "We must democratize all the smarts and brains for A.I. , and that is to make the technology easily available to developers. The gap between the people who create the technology and people like you and me is developers who build applications that end users touch."

This should help all digital assistants but Jeff Kagan, an independent industry analyst, said this recent move from Apple could give Siri the boost it needs.

"While Google and Microsoft have been getting better, Siri seems stuck in the mud," Kagan said. "It's going to be important for companies like Apple to really own A.I. Siri is Apple's A.I. opportunity. It will be interesting to see if Apple can really make some headway now."


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