The Siri virtual assistant: bringing intelligence to the interface


Date Thursday October 15th 2009
Time 4:00-5:00pm
Venue George E. Pake Auditorium, PARC

PARC Forum

There is a new interaction paradigm for the web: the Virtual Personal Assistant (VPA).   Beyond search, a VPA is task focused: it helps you get things done.  You interact with it in natural language, in a conversation.   It gets to know you, acts on your behalf, and gets better with time. The VPA paradigm builds on the information and services of the web, with new technical challenges of semantic intent understanding, context awareness, service delegation, and mass personalization.

Siri is a virtual personal assistant for the mobile Internet.  Although just in its infancy, Siri can help with some common tasks that human assistants do, such as booking a restaurant, getting tickets to a show, and inviting a friend.  We will describe the technology underlying Siri and how it fits in the larger ecosystem of services and data providers.  And we will offer a vision of where assistants like Siri are going.


Tom Gruber ( is a researcher, inventor, and serial entrepreneur, with a focus on technology to augment human intelligence. He is cofounder, CTO and VP Design for, an intelligent assistant for the mobile Internet.

Tom has created several products that support human collaboration and knowledge sharing. His research at Stanford in ontology engineering helped lay the groundwork for the Semantic Web. He invented HyperMail, the widely used open-source application that turns email conversations into collective memories on the Web.  He was founder and CTO of Intraspect Software, which pioneered the space of Collaborative Knowledge Management -- software that helps large communities of professionals contribute to and learn from a collective body of knowledge. He designed and built, a popular collective knowledge system where travelers from around the world share their experiences.

Tom has been involved in an advisory role with LinkedIn, SocialText, Internet Archive, Mindjet, Powerset, and Radar Networks (Twine).

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