Did Apple Spill The Beans On Its New Voice Assistant Product 24 Years Ago?

from the not-really,-but... dept

This one is just amusing — so please don’t try to pull any sort of “serious” statement out of it. Apple announced its voice activated Siri assistant feature, which is a bit more advanced than similar attempts at this kind of thing:

It’s definitely a step closer to the science fiction of our past and things like the “Computer” on Star Trek (though, perhaps many steps away from it being that useful). So, the idea itself isn’t that impressive. People have been talking about this kind of holy grail for years. The question was just always when would the technology be good enough to make it work. And, amusingly, it looks like Apple may have predicted the timing much more accurately than anyone could have guessed.

Back in 1987, Apple put out this video showing a future with a tablet-based virtual assistant called the Knowledge Navigator:

But where is the prediction of the timing in there? Well, I’ll let Andy Baio, who figured this all out, handle the explanation:

Based on the dates mentioned in the Knowledge Navigator video, it takes place on September 16, 2011. The date on the professor’s calendar is September 16, and he’s looking for a 2006 paper written “about five years ago,” setting the year as 2011.

And this morning, at the iPhone keynote, Apple announced Siri, a natural language-based voice assistant, would be built into iOS 5 and a core part of the new iPhone 4S.

So, 24 years ago, Apple predicted a complex natural-language voice assistant built into a touchscreen Apple device, and was less than a month off.

Nicely done, Apple of the past.

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Companies: apple

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Comments on “Did Apple Spill The Beans On Its New Voice Assistant Product 24 Years Ago?”

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Njdobber (profile) says:


I just don’t want to talk to my phone…I don’t want to let everybody around me to know who I’m calling, or that I’m searching something, or that I want to look at my twitter…these voice based apps have been on phones for years and I don’t know a single person that uses them…why don’t these devs work on something worth adding or making better? I i am done with RIM…was on the fence about Android or iOS but apple making Siri a “core app” seals the deal Android it is.

Rab Simpson (profile) says:

Re: ...

i am done with RIM…was on the fence about Android or iOS but apple making Siri a “core app” seals the deal Android it is

so let me get this straight. you’ve decided to go with android because apple have added an app to iOS that you don’t have to use? well, that makes loads of sense!

you’re living up to your name with that kind of backwards thinking. where i come from a ‘dobber’ isn’t something you’d want to be called, it means dick but with the added implication of being as intelligent as one.

Anthony (profile) says:

Re: Re: ...

Rab, it’s a core app which means you can’t remove it. Which means even if you don’t use the app, it’s always running, taking up valuable memory. Android don’t need to make things core apps because Android allows other apps to deeply integrate with the OS so it acts like a core app when installed – something Apple doesn’t let apps do.

These systems are the most useless ideas ever.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 ...

While I don’t prefer that faulty apps crash my computer, I absolutely prefer that the system allows them enough power to be able to do so. I can always remove the faulty app.

I understand that Apple’s way has great appeal to people who want their machine to be an appliance that requires no thought or attention. However, there are those such as myself who want to use the machine as a computer and not have a Big Brother limiting access to the system (by software or humans) For Our Own Good.

My point is that you state your FTFY as if you are pointing out a fault in Android. You are not. You are pointing out a side-effect of a very valuable feature of Android.

Lawrence D'Oliveiro says:

When A Company Starts Litigating, It Stops Innovating

Worth looking at the general lack of interest in the Iphone 4S (even including this voice-recognition feature). It?s a clear sign of what happens when a company takes its eye off the ball, and puts its creative efforts into coming up with excuses for lawsuits, instead of innovative new products that customers will fall over themselves to buy.

Expect Apple?s legendary cash reserves (and profit margin) to disappear rapidly down this plughole. Who will rescue the company this time?

herb schulsinger says:

Re: When A Company Starts Litigating, It Stops Innovating

You’re just the latest in a long line of doom sayers who have been predicting Apple’s imminent demise for the past 20 years, and today Apple is the most highly capitalized company in the world. Trotting out the floral arrangements for Apple’s funeral is just a bit premature, doncha think?

Michael Long (profile) says:

Re: re:...

I’m sure every OS has things included in the system that you don’t have to use, don’t want to use, or don’t need to use.


See how easy that was?

But the hands-free dialing, directions, messaging, reminders, timers, weather reports, and so on look to me like they could be very useful when you’re driving, walking, when your phone’s in your coat pocket, or when your hands are otherwise occupied (like the kitchen timer demo, perverts).

I rarely use the existing iPhone’s Voice Control feature. But when I do, I’m glad it’s there. Siri looks to be a lot better.

And that’s just the beginning of the services they’re going to offer.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Siri, Give me a way to annoy even more people around me.
beep beep… okay.
Siri, Make those people stop staring at me talking at full volume to you.
beep beep… okay, trunk monkey deployed.
Siri, This movie bores me, how can I make other people hate it to?
beep beep… The killer is Catherine…done.
Siri, explain to me how it is ok for Apple to make something like someone else made, but if someone makes something like what Apple makes its worthy of a lawsuit?
beep beep… Our lawyers on on the way to sue you out of existence.

While I expect there might be limited real world need for this, ummm this is not the hype we were expecting.
You had one of your people threaten a US citizen of Mexican decent with deportation and more harassment because you lost a prototype… of this…
Siri, mark the date as the day the Apple reality distortion field failed.
beep beep… I’m afraid I can’t do that TAC.

Chargone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Seriously?

… xbox 360’s bloody stupid avitars.

which replaced the old system.

the old system was nice. bog standard ‘square image of your choosing’ deal.

you could (and many people did!) by shiny awesome new ones, or get them on bonus preorder discs for games, or what have you.

so, yeah… all those nice non-refundable shinies you payed for?

system update.

they no longer exist. you get these crappy puppet things instead.

oh, those wallpapers (actually entire themes) we made you Pay Money For? those ones that were all designed based on our icons and things being in certain places? yeah, we’re going to compleatly redo the interface so the only part of those you can see is the BLANK part designed for the ICONS TO GO ON … the rest is going to be covered up by a white Desk that we now put the icons on. congratulations.

(… that was the worst jump, but it’s got worse since.)

not as bad as sony’s other OS disaster, but pretty bad.

TechnoMage (profile) says:

But will Apple add REAL multitasking? and a easy way to root the device?

I’ll try to keep the apple bashing to a minimum, So…

1) Will apple add REAL multitasking, not the “we don’t want you to actually run multiple apps at once, so we fake it” (Android ran _upto_ {It still does some fancy ‘faking it’ when resources are low on the device, but when not, they actually run concurrently} 6 applications at 1.0 launch)

2) Will Apple devices have a way to press external buttons to load the boot loader on boot up like other device manf. have?

Chargone (profile) says:

Re: Does it work in the wild?

prime example: voice to text software.

i remember seeing a video that gave a prime example of how bad that could be.

there was at least one major example that was so baffled by the NZ accent that, if memory serves, they had to release a separate version that could compensate… (unfortunately neither my memory nor google-skills are sufficiant to the task of finding and linking that in a time frame smaller than the point at which it’s really, REALLY not worth my time.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Apple’s seemingly prescient promotional video is really not very entertaining. And the asthetics of the device in the video are hideous. Seriously, who would want a gaudy, gold, mock-steampunk desktop display (I don’t believe this was presented as a tablet as the device never leaves the desktop). And if I were going to have a personal assistant it surely woudn’t be Bill Nye the Science guy!

teka (profile) says:

Re: Re:

On the contrary, i would love to have that interface laying on a nearby table, and I absolutely insist on having Bill Nye be my all-knowing pocket god.

Not Too interested in the current apple offering. I always assumed a server-remote solution would come around. Run the resource-heavy speech processing and AI on my home computer (where it would also be used) and have the silly thing call me, skype me, something. Let it do the heavy thinking, then squirt me the data to a handheld device.

Sure, this idea could work even Better if the “home” was an Apple server or even a Google server, I just cringe at handing over the complete and total control of my every interaction with any human to a server I cant kick down a flight of stairs.

William H. Magill says:

Siri vs Knowledge Navigator

The usefulness of Siri is NOT on the iPhone…. it is on the IPad. It DOES become much of what we were treated to with the Knowledge Navigator.

To those of us who were in the CIS/AI business back in 1987, Knowledge navigator was clearly a goal to strive for. Back then the ARPAnet was not yet the Internet as we know it today. .. and Wireless… purely a dream. There are still things to be done to realize Knowledge Navigator, but we ARE getting closer.

JBDragon says:

Re: Re: Siri vs Knowledge Navigator

No the iPad 2 like the iPhone 4 can’t run it! The iPad 2 only has 256 Megs of Ram. The iPhone 4 has 512 Megs, but the iPhone4S has 1 Gig. My guess this could be a feature for the iPad 3 which I’m waiting on. I’m hoping it’ll have the Higher Rez Screen, if it has Siri on top of that also, even better.

Right now only the iPhone 4S. I do have the Siri App and have used that on my iPhone4 for over a year. It works similar, it’s just doesn’t have the added benefit of being built into the OS to do all those other cool things. Many of those things would be quite handy.

When I’m driving I’m streaming music from my iphone which is linked by Blue Tooth to my Radio which also has Hands free Voice Support. (I do really hate them dorky Blue Tooth headsets. With Siri, while driving down the road I could tell it to play my Txt Message or read my E-Mail and then Reply to that, all hands free. Siri does work quite well. How it works in real life on the 4S as shown, I can’t wait to hear. I’ll have it when I upgrade next year to the iPhone 5 which should be a Major Upgrade going by Apples track record.

Jimbo says:

You people are nuts

The haters here are insane. Did you even watch the video??? The hands-free capabililties are incredible; the things I can now do with my phone have me absolutely giddy with excitement. Where’s the “sizzle” with the 4S? How about market saturation? A lot of the smart money (mine included) is doing like it does every time-waiting until our contracts come close to the end so we can secure a sweet deal for an upgrade. I’m perfectly happy on subsisting on my iPhone4 until then, and excitedly awaiting the future when I can score one with a Siri. Hopefully by then the 5 will be out and I will have even more to go geek crazy over. Time to step down, haters. The Android is a great product. The iPhone happens to be what I prefer. Can’t we all just be happy that a competitive marketplace is driving technology to places that we never thought it could go?

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