Secret message: Operation Lisbeth is going really well.
In a previous post entitled “Life in the Time of the Bayesian Wars“, I pointed out that “Companies like IBM, Google, Oracle, HP/Autonomy and SAP are in a fierce battle for the supremacy over the Bayesian sea lanes and trade routes to the New World.” and that “quantum computers have the potential to escalate that war significantly.” (I love quoting myself. I always agree with myself completely)
One particular battle in that war, a battle that is now raging at maximum intensity, is the one over personal assistants (PAs). PAs rely on a carefully curated database of facts called a knowledge base (KB). Some of the opening salvos of the Battle of PA Hill were made by Wolfram Research with its KB Wolfram Alpha, by IBM with its PA Watson and by Apple with its PA Siri. Since those initial volleys, the war has escalated. Now two search engine superpowers, Google and Microsoft/Bing, have joined the fray. Search engine (or social network) companies have a great advantage over IBM and other analytics giants, because they are in a better position to leverage the data of web pages plus user queries and personal data. Here is what these two search engine empires call their military operations:
|Knowledge Graph||Android’s Now|
Even though it might appear that Microsoft has just joined the fight, and doesn’t stand a chance against mighty Google, the truth is that MS has been involved in the PA battle longer than any other superpower. Google was founded in 1998, but as far back as 1996, Bill Gates was already telling everyone that someday B nets would be Microsoft’s secret weapon. Microsoft’s initial entry into the field was Clippy :), not the best of starts, although the story is that the B net part of Clippy was removed or badly crippled at the last moment, so Clippy is not a true representative of B net power, thank God. More recent PA attempts by Microsoft like their “Virtual Receptionist” are much more respectable.
Recently, the Redmond giant has uttered some battle cries that must be unnerving to their opponents. Microsoft has been bragging that their KB Satori (which means “understanding” and “enlightenment” in Japanese) and their PA Cortana (named after a holographic AI in the XBox video game Halo), both of which are soon to be unveiled in their full majesty, are more advanced Bayesian weapons, true death stars, than the weapons of their competitors.
Microsoft has faltered frequently and foolishly in the past ten years (with the exception of Kinetic which is pretty cool). Will Satori and Cortana finally take Microsoft out of the doldrums it’s been stuck in for the past decade and save cash hemorrhaging Bing? Or is it all bluster on their part and once again they will end up replaying the bungling role of the Brits in the charge of the light brigade? Stay tuned.There are of course many elements to a KB and PA that have nothing to do with Bayesian analysis so some might say that us Bayesians take credit for everything. Okay, but you have to admit that important parts of the analysis done by PAs, either the current ones or the future versions, will be heavily based on Bayesian ideas.
Of course, I think a secret weapon that has the potential to change the outcome of this war is quantum computer AI. We’ll see.
Check out this nice war reportage from the front lines:
Microsoft’s Answer To Siri: Cortana, by Michael Endler (InformationWeek.com, September 13, 2013)
Cortana anticipation has been building again in recent days, after several purported Windows 8.1 images leaked online. Citing an inside source, ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley subsequently reported that Microsoft is indeed readying a digital assistant technology, but that it will involve more than smartphones; rather, it will be a “shell” that harnesses the cloud to personalize and unify user experiences across Microsoft devices and services.
Apple’s Siri already follows voice commands and intelligently aggregates information in response to certain user queries. Android’s Google Now goes a step further in some ways; if the user chooses, it will scan emails, calendars and other data in order to learn more about the user and anticipate his or her needs. Cortana reportedly aims to outdo both competitors thanks to Microsoft’s Satori technology, which is currently used in Bing.
Bing senior developer Stefan Weitz added fuel to the fire in late July, telling CNET that Siri and Google Now “have a fairly shallow understanding of the world,” and that Microsoft will not ship a competitor until it can disrupt the market. “We could come out with something like [Siri and Google Now], but it wouldn’t be state of the art,” he said, noting that Satori’s brain is powered by more than 50,000 nodes in Microsoft’s cloud.
Microsoft founder Bill Gates and retiring Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer also have chimed in with hints. In the memo that announced the “one Microsoft” restructuring plan, Ballmer wrote that the company’s technology “will understand people’s needs and what is available in the world, and will provide information and assistance.” He said Microsoft services will anticipate each user’s daily needs and provide insight when it’s needed.
Other great war reportage:
- Microsoft’s Bing seeks enlightenment with Satori, by Dan Farber (cnet.com, July 30, 2013)
- Microsoft’s Cortana to Battle Siri, by Pedro Hernandez (eweek.com, 2013-09-12)