Apple envisioned Siri on tablets back in 1987

Apple's Siri voice technology may be the latest thing to hit the iPhone in the upcoming 4S hardware, but the idea stems back earlier than that.

Apple's Knowledge Navigator concept video.
Apple's Knowledge Navigator concept video. Apple/YouTube

Siri, the new voice technology unveiled yesterday that's coming to the iPhone 4S, may not be such a new idea for Apple after all, at least according to a 1987 concept video showing a vaguely similar system designed for tablets.

Andy Baio over at Waxy posted a video of Apple's "Knowledge Navigator," a concept video put together for the Educom computer trade show in 1987, to be delivered alongside the keynote of then Apple CEO John Sculley.

The video, which cost Apple some $60,000 and six weeks to create from start to finish, features a professor going about comparing research notes and studies, as well as collaborating with others over video chat on a foldout tablet device running an older version of the Mac OS. Included is a plethora of concepty goodness, from touch screens and video conferencing to translucent removable memory that looks like it's straight out of "Star Trek."

But the glue that holds it together is the artificial intelligence assistant: A smooth-talking man who is a dead ringer for Bill Nye, the science guy, has complete conversations with the professor and is able to pull up charts and data based on plain language requests. It was more advanced than the Siri technology we saw demoed yesterday, but there are clearly some shared ideas.

The fact that this idea's been around so long does beg the question why Siri's being launched as a "beta" with the iPhone 4S next week. It also brings up the idea of the technology making it to other Apple devices, particularly the iPad.

Here's the Knowledge Navigator video, and beneath that is Apple's demo of Siri:



2011's Siri:


 

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