Siri Looks Destined To Rediscover Her Desktop Roots

A job listing recently posted to Apple's career site suggests the tech giant has plans to bring Siri to its Mac computers, the last major class of Apple hardware that has yet to sync with the virtual assistant.

Since Apple first introduced Siri as an iPhone 4S feature in 2011, the assistant has made its way to iPads and iPods touch. While Apple's Mac OS X desktop software currently offers a dictation service, Siri has yet to maker her way to Macs.

In the job listing for a Siri UI [user interface] engineer, Apple makes no mention of its iOS operating system -- which powers Apple's mobile devices -- but specifies that prospective hires should have "[f]amiliarity with Unix, especially Mac OS X" and a "[p]assion for the Macintosh platform." The post also has a hint of the hyperbole Apple's known for: Potential hires should "[w]ant to make the next big thing even bigger," "do the impossible" and "be constantly challenged into accomplishing things you know are beyond your reach."

Siri's move back to desktop computers would be a homecoming of sorts. Although Siri, which started out as an app that Apple later acquired, was initially conceived for mobile phones and never found its way to PCs, Apple's assistant has its roots in an ambitious, artificially intelligent assistant called CALO, one built to run on desktop computers. This Cognitive Assistant that Learns and Organizes was developed between 2003 and 2008 by several hundred AI experts working with SRI International, a research institute, as part of a DARPA-funded initiative to create an intelligent office assistant.

Much like a human assistant, CALO could not only track meetings, tasks and files, but it was also capable of learning from its experience and anticipating the needs of its "boss." As I explained in my recent story on Siri's origins, CALO had an impressive repertoire of skills:

Say your colleague canceled shortly before a meeting. CALO, knowledgeable about each person's role on a project, could discern whether to cancel the meeting, and if needed, reschedule, issue new invitations and pin down a conference room. If the meeting went ahead as planned, CALO could assemble (and rank) all the documents and emails you'd need to be up to speed on the topic at hand. The assistant would listen in on the meeting, and, afterward, deliver a typed transcript of who said what and outline any specific tasks laid out during the conversation.

Unfortunately, while those capabilities may have existed in the lab, they're a long way from making their way to the Fortune 500's office computers. The Siri app never offered such a complete suite of skills, though Apple's assistant does derive some of its smarts from CALO's code: Siri's original creators had planned to give their assistant CALO's ability to learn from a user's habits.

Apple hints in its job listing that it plans to continue expanding Siri's talents, with the ultimate goal, it seems, to make Siri central to any tasks performed via an iPhone, iPad, iPod touch or Mac. Instead of, say, opening multiple apps or moving between tabs on a browser, users' activities could all be based in Siri.

"Consider it an entire miniature OS within the OS," the listing notes. "And you get a good idea of the scope!"

[h/t Apple Insider]