Viv Labs (Adam Cheyer, Dag Kittlaus and Chris Brigham)

Dag Kitt­laus and Adam Cheyer co-founded a SRI International spin-off in 2007. The startup eventually got acquired by Apple for its intelligent personal assistant technology which would later become (in)famously known as Siri.

But they haven’t been standing still.

The co-founders of Siri are now taking the concept to the next level with Viv, a new breed of digital personal assistant which couples a myriad of data sources to next-generation artificial intelligence algorithms in order to do virtually anything you ask.

Viv’s implications can’t be overstated. And rather than sell out to the highest bidder, this time around the team has broad ambitions to rethink the future of intelligent agents while possibly giving birth to a multibillion-dollar industry.

An exhaustive feature published Tuesday by Wired explains how the new San Jose, California-headquartered startup, Viv Labs, plans on advancing artificial intelligence and taking over the world, why Viv eclipses Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana and Google’s Google Now and how it differs from literally every digital assistant out there…

Reporter Steven Levy in his lengthy Wired write-up quotes Kittlaus as saying that “Siri is chapter one of a much longer, bigger story,” adding that Viv Labs will change how we interact with computing devices.

Adam Cheyer, a Siri co-founder, said:

I’m extremely proud of Siri and the impact it’s had on the world, but in many ways it could have been more. Now I want to do something bigger than mobile, bigger than consumer, bigger than desktop or enterprise. I want to do something that could fundamentally change the way software is built.

Rather than emulate intelligence by using tons of canned responses akin to Siri, Viv is about understanding complex questions by tapping connections between various services and apps and passing data to sophisticated learning algorithms to provide accurate answers.

Whereas services like Google Now benefit from Google’s vast knowledge graph, Kittlaus points out you can’t ask Google Now stuff like, ‘What is the population of the city where Abraham Lincoln was born?’ because the system doesn’t know how to put individual data together.

“Like Siri, it can’t do anything that coders haven’t explicitly programmed it to do,” he goes on to say.

It’s not just a Google-exclusive issue, other digital assistant are plagued by same limitations stemming from their similar technological foundations.

Though Apple has since extended Siri’s powers—to make an OpenTable restaurant reservation, for example—she still can’t do something as simple as booking a table on the next available night in your schedule. She knows how to check your calendar and she knows how to use Open­Table. But putting those things together is, at the moment, beyond her.

Enter Viv.

Take a complicated command like “Give me a flight to Dallas with a seat that Shaq could fit in.” Viv will parse the sentence and then it will perform its best trick: automatically generating a quick, efficient program to link third-party sources of information together—say, Kayak, SeatGuru, and the NBA media guide—so it can identify available flights with lots of legroom. And it can do all of this in a fraction of a second.

When Cheyer demoed to a former VP of product for Google Now how Viv located the closest bottle of wine that paired well with a dish to Vishal Sharma, he was blown away.

“I don’t know any system in the world that could answer a question like that,” he says. “Many things can go wrong, but I would like to see something like this exist.”

The following excerpt perhaps best describes Viv’s power.

One engineer explains how he has been refining Viv’s response to “Get me a ticket to the cheapest flight from SFO to Charles de Gaulle on July 2, with a return flight the following Monday.” In the past week, the engineer added an airplane-seating database. Using a laptop-based prototype of Viv that displays a virtual phone screen, he speaks into the microphone. Lufthansa Flight 455 fits the bill. “Seat 61G is available according to your preferences,” Viv replies, then purchases the seat using a credit card.

Infographic seen below outlines the steps Viv takes to understand complex queries and derive desired results.

Viv (infographics 001)

So, not only can Viv provide accurate answers to complex queries in a fraction of a second, it can also change its own code on the fly, learn to do new things and become a lot smarter the more you use it.

Kittlaus & Co. are planning on licensing Viv technology to any interested device makers and are looking forward to see Viv — a “global brain”, as they’re calling it — integrated into everyday devices like smartphones, tablets, television sets, cars and other Internet-connected hardware.

By the way, they named Viv after the Latin root meaning live.

Photo top of post: Adam Cheyer (left), Dag Kittlaus (middle) and Chris Brigham (right).

  • John Tremendol

    Amazing! I love how all the different kinds of information is combined and represented! But since i am a fanboy, i secretly inside want it to be apple exclusive. 😛 😀

  • n0ahcruz3

    Yawn meh. Ai after ai after ai. Siri, googl now, cortana etc. People dont even use this feature that much.

    • Matheus Lisboa

      I do… A lot…

    • Matt Taylor

      I don’t… At all…

    • White Michael Jackson

      i make sure its disabled, and so do all my iphone owning friends

  • gittlopctbi

    This would be a game-changer and something that is needed. Unlike some technologies that are created because it can, and then seeking a solution, this is a solution that can be incorporated into nearly everything. It could also potentially make computing easier for the novice.

  • Mike M. Powell

    I have a 5s n I forgot that I had Siri ._.

    • Matt Taylor

      That’s because Siri is a gimmick, like Touch ID! Apple rely on gimmicks to brain wash the public in to thinking they are the all powerful oz…

      • Rowan09

        A gimmick is something that has no real use or solves a problem. Touch ID makes it easier to unlock your phone, make purchases and protects your phone. Siri is also not a gimmick since it can do functions to make people’s life easier while running, driving, etc. I’m not sure how these features are a gimmick. Is front facing speakers on the HTC One a gimmick too?

      • Matt Taylor

        If it takes away from priority hardware then yes! But considering that particular handset has double the ram of the 5s, a larger battery, and a decent size screen then gimmicks on this phone are acceptable!

      • Rowan09

        How does it take away from priority? Voice before Siri was horrible and Touch ID is great and works great. All those other phones you keep bragging about still doesn’t outperform the 5s, they are all about the same. They made a bigger battery with every iPhone upgrade.

      • Matt Taylor

        Because Apple prioritised what I believe to be less important areas of hardware! I would much rather they work on improving the meat and potatoes first… Such as ram! And I am not bragging about other phones I am merely stating facts I found online!

      • Rowan09

        Software is always important and so is hardware. More RAM on an iPhone was not a necessity on the iPad I always feel it should be a much more powerful device though. The facts you found online doesn’t say the iPhone is inferior either because it has less RAM. You want certain things and I respect that but I get crashes more on my Note 2 with more RAM that I barely use than on my iPhone with less RAM that I always use. I want the same things you want but I wouldn’t want Apple to get rid of or forget about the current features. If you own a car with Bluetooth Siri is great.

      • Matt Taylor

        Completely agree that the iPad should be a faster device! I think it’s crazy that it shares the same chip as a phone! When I refer to wanting more ram etc I am aiming at the iPad! The iPhone is powerful enough for a phone in my opinion!

      • Rowan09

        Oh. The chip overclocked, but the iPad should be at least 2GB RAM if the iPhone is 1GB. The iPad isn’t slow but that’s what I would like to see.

    • David Gitman

      Siri doesnt even support my country

      • Guest

        Persian is language spoken in 3 different countries, Afghanistan, Iran & Tajikistan.
        We don’t have that already on Siri

      • Sohail Wahab

        Persian is a language spoken in 3 different countries, Afghanistan, Iran & Tajikistan.
        They should really work on bringing all languages to Siri & then improve it

  • Manuel Molina

    Did the matrix or Will Smith teach these guys anything? Ha.

  • Jad Boukai

    Cool!

  • Brian 

    Skynet here we come! 😀

  • Stefano ‘Graziani’ Polo

    I’m a huge Siri hater, only because it’s crap with its recognition, response time and the need for an internet connection. So many times I tried to use Siri when I had my data turned off only to get that stupid “unable to perform this request” message…ugh.

    I wonder how these guys are able to do this though? Wouldn’t there be a stipulation in their deal with Apple when they were previously acquired that they could not build a newer, competing product? Either way, I hope they’re successful in building a replacement because Siri just sucks.

  • Someshwar

    It’s been three years since the launch of Siri and apple is yet to open Siri for third party developers. Apple should open up Siri before Siri becomes irrelevant!

  • JayDee917

    People underestimate the speed and power of Siri. No one I know other than myself EVER actually uses Siri. But Siri is actually a powerful quick tool I use just about daily.

    The most useful uses are for sports scores, finding when one of my teams plays next, ask her for movie reviews while surfing through Netflix, but the best Siri use of all is setting up reminders. Without Siri, I forget everything, a quick “remind to ____ when I get home” or “remind that I need to ____ in 20 minutes” not to forget a quick “how do I get home” while driving whenever I’m lost. I also have a father who regular spends time over sea’s so a quick “What time is it in ___?” inquiry is useful before making a call. A last second, half asleep “wake up me at 8am” command is extremely useful, especially at night when looking at your screen feels like glaring into the sun.

    Also, whenever I’m in an unfamiliar area, I usually ask “find me the best chinese food close to me” and she’ll create a list of all the Chinese restaurants and sort them by rating.

    And running iOS 8 beta, I’ve been able to use the hands-free “Hey Siri” function. The other day I used it while making dinner to send and read text messages while my hands were dirty/occupied. I was even able use the “Hey Siri” function to change songs while listening to music in the shower. I had my iPhone charging while connect via bluetooth to a speaker, and while in the shower I yelled, “hey siri… Play songs by Brother Ali” and my music changed, this is almost life-changing stuff here.

    Siri is an extremely powerful tool if you take advantage of all the features. I suggest trying to implement Siri more into your life, and watch how much easier it could make things.

  • nonchalont

    Sounds amazing and is a great business strategy for the company. Rather than sell it, they have companies incorporate it. Genius!!! It would make for great unification amongst different companies. I’m tired of a fragmented Eco-system of companies. I can search from different programs/hardware. I can search from different vehicle manufactures, different makers of phones, televisions, and the list goes one. We will not need to buy this one product, from on manufacture/company to utilize this program.

  • Andrew von Pikrt

    Huge potential, huge security risk.
    In any case, one way or another, the humanity is heading this way and whether you like it or not, it will happen. Best it is made by someone who knows what the heck he’s doing and its done right. Which these guys arguably are.
    +1 from me.

  • an0mal1

    If all it does is what’s on this diagram, I think it’s still limited. It’s info still comes from specified sources, and it doesn’t parse from a “google search” like a human secretary would. I also don’t see where it makes account for the importance of different aspects of speech. Cheap is magically added at the end. Will it make a distinction between cheap and cheapest, where cheapest makes price the only defining factor and cheap takes into account additional, inferred factors such as relation quality/cost (perhaps using ratings/reviews)? I’m sure this is better than what Siri does, not sure about whether this is where it could be though.

  • Leonardo Offredi

    let’s make it an Apple exclusive and fkn Androids will finally be burned.

  • Bodie

    When will these become a reality