When iPhone4S users ask a question of Siri, the smartphone's female-voiced personal assistant app, they are tapping into technologies with DNA that can be traced, in part, to Carnegie Mellon University. A number of CMU scientists were involved in a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency called Cognitive Agent that Learns and Observes, or CALO. Part of DARPA's Personal Assistant that Learns (PAL) program, CALO was focused on creating a digital personal assistant that could anticipate and help meet a user's needs, find information on the Internet and perform tasks such as taking notes of meetings.
CALO was run by SRI International and included researchers at a number of universities. After the program concluded in 2007, SRI spun-off Siri, which Apple acquired last year. "Siri's actually a really great project that's based on ideas that were developed over the past decade or so at CMU and elsewhere," said Alex Rudnicky, research professor in the Computer Science Department and one of the principal investigators for CALO at CMU. "It's hard for us to claim any bit of code in Siri," he added, "but the kinds of things we talked about (during CALO) may have made SRI realize that this was possible."
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