The surprising military origin of Siri

Siri is not an Apple invention. And the company that created the assistant, was born as a branch of a military project Funded by the United States Department of Defense. And it was not created in 2010 either. Rather, its origin dates back to 2003, in order to create communication protocols and efficiency in task management. 20 years later, more than 150 million dollars invested, and after passing through several hands, Siri no longer needs a letter of introduction.

It began to take shape before the iPhone existed

In 2003, the CALO project (Cognitive Assistant that Learns and Organizes) was born, which lasted until 2008. The name, however, was inspired by Latin (calo literally means the soldier’s servant). An automated military butlercapable of learning based on decisions, to manage tasks efficiently.

The creators of CALO? The company SRI International, a United States artificial intelligence and technology research center. CALO investors? The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) of the United States. In other words, one of the most important agencies of the Department of Defense. The R&D of the military world.

The objective? As they explain from SRI, “to create a new generation of cognitive assistants capable of reasoning, learning from experience and responding consistently.” AND we are talking about 2003. 20 years later we already see this as something much more mundane and habitual. But for the time it was quite a technological vanguard project. And it is that, to create all this, 150 million dollars were needed, and more than 300 researchers from 22 institutions.

From CALO to Siri and her secret brothers

The CALO project ended in 2008. However, that was the beginning of a path that branched out. On the one hand, in 2007, SRI created the company Siri Inc. This company was the one that began to develop the assistant that we know today. Which, in its beginnings, was an application for iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad, compatible with iOS 3.0 and iOS 4.0. And if, it was free to download on iTunes and the App Store.

siri app itunes

However, Siri was not the only thing that came out of all this. With all the CALO baggage, DARPA created CPOF (Command Post of the Future), which is software that is still used in the United States Army. His initial goal was to “double the speed and quality of command decisions” using “networked information visualization systems.” Where Siri shows you restaurants, CPOF shows you trenches.

And if this “secret brother” surprises you and makes you bristle, Siri had three brothers more peaceful. One of them was Desti, a travel guide app that was bought by Nokia to improve its mapping systems. Trapit, a platform for discovering web content, and Tempo AI, which was a calendar and productivity app, which was bought (and closed) by the Salesforce company.

old web siriweb app siri

For its part, Siri was touted as a new way of interacting with the web. For the first time, the general public was going to be able to “talk to the internet” to ask for things. In 2010, Apple decided to buy the application and the company Siri Inc. As a curiosity, there was the website, which if we access it, will take us to the Siri page at Apple. But, in its day, it had a completely different look than what we are used to today.