As the world shifts to using more tablets, touchscreens and mobile devices as the point of access to the Web, there’s an increasing need to rethink the keyboard. On smaller form factors, the traditional method of tap typing may no longer be the best way to enter text on a screen. Enter Siine, a semantically-based, intelligent interface that evolves the keyboard.
But this is no mere keyboard replacement “app,” it’s much more. It’s a communication platform. A universal translator. A system that learns how you speak and then speaks for you. Siine is the future of text-based communication – or, at least that’s what the company says.
While that statement may or may not end up being true, it’s wonderful to see a startup dreaming this big.
Not Just a Keyboard Replacement App
Several companies have already begun re-thinking the keyboard, including Swype, a keyboard replacement app which lets you drag your finger across the screen from letter to letter, and SwiftKey, which smartly suggests the word you may enter next (e.g. You type “t” and it suggests “the.”) Similar to Siine, SwiftKey also makes use of semantics and machine learning to suggest the words you may type – that is the sorts of things you typically say in a conversation.
When Siine first enters the market, it may be confused as a direct competitor to apps like these, because it will initially arrive as an Android Market application. But Android is just the beginning – Siine aims to be an app you use on all your screens, coming next to the iPhone, the iPad, tablet PCs and the Web shortly after its Android launch. And according to the company, it will more than just a keyboard replacement application.
So what is Siine, exactly? Well, it’s a little curious. Operating in stealth mode until recently, the company is still short on details, leaving much to be revealed during its launch at November’s Under the Radar conference, an event showcasing new startups.
What We Do Know: Semantics, Understanding, Translation
Here’s what we do know: Siine is a communication tool that will eventually exist for any platform where you enter text into a little white box. Whether you’re SMS’ing on your Android, typing on an iPad, tweeting from a basic messaging phone or surfing the Web.
Siine doesn’t just suggest words, it suggests the words you would say. For example, if you always sign off your text messages with “Cya!!!!!!!!!!!”, Siine knows. If you say “like” all the time, Siine knows. If you use acronyms, Siine knows. It even knows what those acronyms mean. It even knows what acronyms mean in different languages. And it doesn’t need to have giant dictionary-based databases on the backend to do all this because it uses semantics – a technology that enables the understanding of meanings and context of the words and phrases you use.
In short, Siine combines intelligence, semantics and the ability to understand you.
Update: In an earlier version of this article, we said Siine was like an augmented version of SwiftKey. That may or may not be the case. SwiftKey is also a semantically-based application with an ability to understand you. However, although SwiftKey does support several languages, it does not function as a universal translator as Siine intends to. In our mind, that’s a plus. But it was not our intention to malign SwiftKey, an arguably great app in its own right. We should also note that SwiftKey has intentions beyond the Android Market as well.
Business Model Still Flexible
For now, the company’s business model is flexible – the company is in talks with several big-name handset manufacturers and mobile carriers, as well as VCs.
Siine’s CEO Ed Maklouf’s educational background plays well into the creation of a startup like this. While at Stanford, he studied Communications and Linguistics, so he has a better understanding of how people communicate with each other than the average entrepreneur. He and his small team have now put that knowledge into action in Siine and we’re excited to take a look at what they’ve come up with.
Are you excited too? We thought so. In a couple of weeks, Siine will launch into private beta and we’ll offer invites to our readers – stay tuned.
Above is the first and only image of Siine that the company is providing at the moment. It’s notable for the fact that it doesn’t look remarkably different than a standard keyboard. How does Siine turn that keyboard into a “revolutionary” new interface, exactly? We’ll keep you posted.
Update! New Video!
Siine has just released a new YouTube video detailing its service a bit more. Although it’s still vague on the specifics, you’ll see there are some hints about how it integrates with applications – a feature that may position it as being both a virtual assistant and a keyboard replacement application.