Siri’s Creators Demonstrate an Assistant That Takes the Initiative

Rachel Metz  in MIT Technology Review: “In a small, dark, room off a long hallway within a sprawling complex of buildings in Silicon Valley, an array of massive flat-panel displays and video cameras track Grit Denker’s every move. Denker, a senior computer scientist at the nonprofit R&D institute SRI, is showing off Bright, an intelligent assistant that could someday know what information you need before you even ask.
Initially, Bright is meant to cut down on the cognitive overload faced by workers in high-stress, data-intensive jobs like emergency response and network security. Bright may, for instance, aid network administrators in trying to stop the spread of a fast-moving virus by quickly providing crucial infection information, or help 911 operators send the right kind of assistance to the scene of an accident. But like many other technologies developed at SRI, such as the digital personal assistant Siri (now owned by Apple), Bright could eventually trickle down to laptops and smartphones. It might take the form of software that automatically brings up listings for your favorite shows when it thinks you’re about to sit down and watch TV, or searches the Web for information relevant to your latest research project without requiring you to lift a finger….
Denker describes Bright as a “cognitive desktop” and “a desktop that really understands what you’re doing, and not just for you, but also in a collaborative setting for people….There’s a long way to go, however. The system is currently focused on “cognitive indexing”—the mechanism that ties various clues together and then tries to predict what is important.”