New virtual assistant challenges Siri, Cortana

So what can the offering from SRI do that Siri and Cortana can't? We don't know yet.

SRI International has spun off yet another firm, one taking aim at digital assistants like Siri and Cortana. And if there is anyone who knows Siri, it's SRI.

SRI Institute is a high-tech incubator in Menlo Park that has produced hundreds of technological inventions since its founding in the 1940s. Among them: the computer mouse and the original Internet, called ARPANet.

It also created Siri, Apple's digital voice-based assistant for the iPhone. The Siri technology came from a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) project called Cognitive Assistant that Learns and Organizes, or CALO.

CALO was a $150 million project involving 25 research organizations and institutions along with help from Nuance, a voice recognition firm first born in SRI before being spun off. It's best known for its Dragon dictate software.

SRI International's newest project is called "Kasisto," both the product and company name, and the product operates just like Siri and Microsoft's Cortana. Like Siri and Cortana, users can give Kasisto voice commands and the device will respond with intelligent answers.

Unlike Siri, which is built into iOS and works independent of the apps, the Kasisto conversational platform adds virtual personal assistant capabilities to mobile applications in days or weeks to provide context-aware assistance (I'll believe that when I see it) and text, touch, and speech modalities, along with natural language understanding and reasoning.

Kasisto claims its product "takes mobile conversation to the next level, enabling consumers to perform complex tasks, which often require deep domain knowledge and human interaction, on a mobile device. The Kasisto conversational artificial intelligence platform allows enterprises to rapidly and cost-effectively integrate branded conversational virtual personal assistants into their mobile applications."

Kasisto will first target the financial industry and is being demoed at the annual FinTech Innovation Lab Demo in New York City this week. Kasisto for financial firms was designed in collaboration with BBVA, a global financial services group. BBVA's role was to bring in-depth knowledge of the banking industry and its regulatory requirements to Kasisto.

The FinTech Innovation Lab is an annual program featuring six early and growth-stage companies developing technology products for the financial services industry. The Lab was co-founded by Accenture and the Partnership Fund for New York City. Program participants are hand-selected by CTOs from some of Wall Street's largest banks.

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Tags smartphonesiPhoneconsumer electronicsSiriSRI InternationalcortanaMicrosoft Subnet

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