Mobile

When Watson met Siri: Apple’s IBM deal could make Siri a lot smarter

Image Credit: Illustration by Tom Cheredar

Though they come from two different families, Watson and Siri could be the ideal pair.

One of the long-term results of Apple’s new partnership with IBM — which the two announced yesterday as a joint effort to give both a stronger standing in the mobile enterprise — could be an eventual union between Watson and Siri, a “cognitive” technology expert familiar with both tells VentureBeat.

For all of its initial hype, Siri just ain’t that smart. That’s because Siri is a friendly voice-controlled interface for complex work happening behind the scenes, usually involving built-in iOS functionality or information from one of Apple’s partners (like Yelp and Rotten Tomatoes). By integrating Watson, Siri could finally make sense of gobs of data without waiting for one of its other partners — tech that’s slower and dumber than Watson — to help out.

Apple did not respond to numerous requests for comment about the potential integration.

“If Siri partners with Watson, people will take notice,” the source said. “People think Siri is a joke. With Watson, no other cognitive technology out there has the ability to beat the world’s best Jeopardy contestants. And what this partnership means is Watson having access to Apple’s data, which would help power Watson’s own cognitive data. So Watson and Siri would fit together perfectly, like a puzzle.

“And remember, Siri is a consumer-facing toy compared to Watson. While Siri is more or less is designed for consumers to use, Watson is for data experts. One of the problems is that Watson’s members don’t have access to consumer data through Google search. Access to Apple’s data will help improve Siri.”

Indeed, the Watson Group, which oversees the three large pizza box-sized Watson devices in IBM’s inventory, has been used successfully for the unimaginable. Watson’s cognitive tech is now dispensing advice, for example, to doctors treating patients at New York’s Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

IBM took Watson to the SXSW festival in Austin this year, driving it around in a gourmet food truck, where it dispensed self-devised recipes to chefs and took orders from customers.

“Siri is primarily about understanding the query and translating it to intent [basically, understanding the question],” Raj Singh, the chief executive of the smart-calendar app Tempo AI, told VentureBeat in an email. “Where Siri lacked is in delivering the answer — to do so, Siri had to partner with a bunch of APIs [application programming interfaces] that can provide knowledge in structured forms (for example, Wolfram Alpha). Watson, although it has a query-understanding component, doesn’t really tout this as their strength, [though] I would argue Siri’s is better in that it’s unconstrained and learning and Watson is more constrained.”

Ultimately, Watson integration could lead to Siri getting features similar to Google Now, which has access to your Gmail account, location history, and much more information from Android devices.

Just imagine what Siri could do if it applied Watson’s logic to your inbox, calendar, and everything you’ve got in the cloud.

More information:

Apple designs and markets consumer electronics, computer software, and personal computers. The company's best-known hardware products include the Macintosh line of computers, the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad. Apple software includes t... read more »

International Business Machines Corporation, abbreviated IBM and nicknamed Big Blue (for its official corporate color), is a global technology and innovation company headquartered in the Northeast US. IBM is the largest technology and ... read more »

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3 comments
Bigdawg's Aspirations
Bigdawg's Aspirations

" Just imagine what Siri could do if it applied Watson’s logic to your inbox, calendar, and everything you’ve got in the cloud."