Meet the Engineers Who Created and Sold Siri to Steve Jobs

Did you know that Siri wasn’t actually created by Apple?

While it was developed by Apple, Siri technology and Siri, Inc. were actually and engineered and co-founded by Stanford Research Institute cohorts Adam Cheyer, Dag Kittlaus, and Tom Gruber.

Adam Cheyer started working with computers in the early 90s. Even before the world wide web went live in 1995, Adam had built a tablet-like PC prototype that you could interface with using verbal commands and handwritten recognition. This prototype would one day evolve into Siri, the automated voice assistant on Apple products.

Fun fact: Norwegian co-founder, Dag Kittlaus is responsible for naming the artificial intelligent agent. In Norwegian, Siri means “beautiful woman who guides you to victory.”

For over two decades, Cheyer, Kittlaus, and Gruber, worked to perfect their AI agent–building nearly 50 versions of the Siri technology. But it wasn’t until the iPhone was released in 2007 that they saw an opportunity to utilize Siri and make it accessible to the masses.

Adam Cheyer Siri

Photo courtesy Adam Cheyer. Adam Cheyer, co-founder of Siri and Viv Labs

Cheyer, Kittlaus and Gruber, spent the next couple of years building a commercial version of Siri, and in February 2010 Siri launched as an app in the Apple store. Within just two or three weeks after launch, Steve Jobs personally called Siri, Inc. headquarters and announced that he wanted to buy the Siri technology and Siri, Inc.

Cheyer and the Siri team refused Jobs’ first buyout offer. “With no hesitation, we said we were flattered but that we weren’t looking to sell at that time,” says Cheyer. “We had just raised a new round of funding and had gone through a successful launch. …[A]n acquisition was just not something we were actively seeking.”

But when Jobs came back a few months later, the trio sold Siri to Apple in April 2010 for more than $200 million, according to reports. For a year and a half, Cheyer worked at Apple as Director of Engineering in the iPhone/iOS group, and Dag as Director of iPhone Apps to create the version of Siri that exists on the iPhone today.

Shortly after leaving Apple, Kittlaus and Cheyer co-found Viv Labs, an artificial intelligence assistant company, which Samsung recently acquired in 2016 for about $215 million, according to reports. Viv is not like your current smartphone’s interface agent though. Viv integrates third-party programs and vendors to complete tasks associated with entities outside of itself. This means you can order a pizza, send money to a friend, or book a hotel room in one continuous conversation with Viv without ever having to make a call, type a message or open an app. The company’s tagline — intelligence becomes a utility — sums up its goal of powering the conversational AI inside a multitude of gadgets and digital services.

 

Dag Kittlaus Viv

Dag Kittlaus of Siri and Viv Labs

Cheyer and Kittlaus aren’t just a pair of genius engineers and AI experts, they have proven they also know what it takes to build a successful company from the ground up. To book Adam Cheyer or Dag Kittlaus for your next event, contact BigSpeak at info@BigSpeak.com

Portions of this article originally appeared on CNBC


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