An ex-Intel VP named Avram Miller has spun the blogosphere an amusing tale in which Apple launches its Found search-engine in Autumn 2015, with a…
“new search capability developed by Apple [that] would revolutionize search”
Miller is said to be at the heart of the Israeli tech scene, so I guess he might have heard something about an Apple contract or quiet company purchase. But I’d have liked to hear just a few more ideas from him. Like maybe some speculation about an iWatch-enabled personal search that’s hands-free and search-box free. A stronger Google Now competitor is certainly something Apple needs. While Apple Siri’s voice work is impressive, it apparently taps into er… Wikipedia, Bing and a much-criticised Apple maps service. Google Search provides “just 4 percent of Siri data”. It would be more profitable for Apple, and a bigger blow to Google, if a Siri successor hooked seamlessly into an Apple fangirl’s entire Apple-o-sphere — hardware, software and services — in order to gain a psuedo-predictive ability to bring you what you probably need to know at any given moment or point in space.
Google Now already does that, of course. But only ‘sort of’, by drawing on your online Google activity + traffic reports, weather and event listings. So how to kill Google Now in its cradle, rather than simply compete with it? To do that, Apple’s predictive search might run from powerful machine-learning that’s been intelligently chewing on all your data for a whole year. All of it, from Big Data to small data: including your itemised grocery bills, your body’s geo-location and real-time biometric data, your home sensors, even a list of your boss’s personal foibles and your pet cat’s GPS-tracked movements. Plus all your online activity. So it really gets to know you, rather than trying to jam you into the mould of a rather dim weather-obsessed restaurant-hopping commuter. And it knows you in context, moment to moment. Apple is perhaps the only company that many would trust with such intrusive joined-up access to their life and work, so Apple might just be able to get sufficient traction. Admittedly Google is also in the AI race, but they certainly don’t have one just yet — despite their recent promising purchases such as the UK’s Deep Mind. What if Apple really has discovered a breakthrough in some back-bedroom in Tel Aviv?
Of course this is all just my before-breakfast speculation, just like Miller’s tale most probably is. But if Apple do have such a search strategy then they could certainly also provide the full range of hardware to support it, not simply a super-Siri in a wristwatch. To make the AI’s predictive algorithms mesh and work as intended, just augment your body / life / work / loved-ones with Apple’s beautifully designed range of expensive hardware and software. Ker-ching! They don’t even need to taint the service with ads. Apple would make money in the advertising gold-rush by “selling the spades” to advertisers — by which I mean, selling the means to comprehensively understand two very difficult markets: rich people who have discerning taste and a good education, and their smart tween kids. They would do this just as the affluent middle classes are set to expand by a few billion people across the world. They would do this just as the technology emerges that will almost totally wipe out ads from our experience, if we want that. Such a search strategy would let Apple retain its uber-cool niche by having an ad-free yet highly advanced ‘personal search’ assistant service, while freeing Apple from the daunting prospect of burning money to battle Google in the ‘research search’ AdWords market. The most lucrative part of the latter, product research by intending buyers, might even be predicted very early and taken care of by a Siri Purchase assistant (days before Google Now figured it out and pushed you to Google Search via some pre-formed keyword searches).
Ah, well… who knows? But it would be cool if a predictive search service might eventually be just a Siri-like voice quietly warbling into one augmented ear, with the AI backend constantly learning (from your natural replies and tone of voice) if the search result was useful/timely or not. For now, an iEar personal search assistant would at least help bypass the camera phobia that’s currently dogging Google Glass. Although it would not solve the problem that no-one in an office or on a commute wants to overhear their neighbour constantly talking to their assistant device.
Could be worn with any glasses, giving the glasses strut a peg on which to rest and also a pass-through hole into the earpiece.