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Next generation of personal assistant takes a step towards 'Her'-style super-Siri

Artificial Solutions envisions a virtual personal assistant that offers you more than a list of search results and even learns what you like.

Richard Trenholm Former Movie and TV Senior Editor
Richard Trenholm was CNET's film and TV editor, covering the big screen, small screen and streaming. A member of the Film Critic's Circle, he's covered technology and culture from London's tech scene to Europe's refugee camps to the Sundance film festival.
Expertise Films, TV, Movies, Television, Technology
Richard Trenholm
2 min read
Joaquin Phoenix stars in 'Her', about a lonely man who falls in love with his Siri-like virtual personal assistant. The Film Stage Media

Who wouldn't fall in love with Scarlett Johansson whispering cinema listings in your ear? We're taking a step toward the Siri-with-added-personality portrayed in the movie "Her" with the next generation of natural language interaction: a virtual personal assistant that gives you more than just a list of search results and even learns what you like.

"Since the introduction of Siri, our world has turned upside down", said Lawrence Flynn, CEO of Artificial Solutions, the British company behind personal assistant app Indigo for Android and iOS. He describes how the company, founded in 2001, seeks to be the brain behind the ears of the speech recognition system in your phone -- so you can have a chat with your phone and have it help you out in a more sophisticated way than today's voice control systems.

Personal assistance
In a bid to top today's voice-controlled personal assistants like Siri and Google Now, Indigo continues conversation across devices. So you could ask your computer to find you a restaurant, then get in your car and your phone is ready to direct you there.

The system is based on the Teneo Network of Knowledge, a back-end system that seeks to take your questions and route them to the relevant resource. So for example, if you fancy a trip to the movies, you ask what's on and, rather than simply showing you a list of search results, the system draws from movie theatre box offices to actually buy tickets.

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Watch this: Ep. 1411: Where we need to talk about 'Her'

Teneo, which is Latin for "to understand", speaks 21 languages. And it learns all about you by picking up on the things you ask about. So instead of explicit personalisation -- where you fill in a form with your data, telling the system your address and so on -- it learns by implicit personalisation -- for example, if you ask for restaurants and then check out a couple of sushi places, Teneo figures that you like sushi and reacts accordingly in future.

Hark at Her

Directed by Spike Jonze, this year's film "Her" tells the story of a lonely writer in the near future who falls in love with Samantha, a souped-up Siri voiced by Johansson. Also starring Amy Adams and Olivia Wilde, the film is nominated for five Oscars.

Sadly, in real life we're not quite falling for a Scarlett Johansson-toned computer just yet: Lawrence Flynn doesn't see that kind of transformational change happening this year.

For more on the next generation of mobile technology, check out our in-depth coverage of phone and tablet extravaganza Mobile World Congress 2014 for news, previews and hand-on first impressions of all the gadgets you need to know about.