Today's smartphones are pretty darned smart. Yet we are only scratching the surface of what these devices might do. What if our smartphones were actually intelligent? Able to perceive our actions and intentions and act upon them on our behalf? That's the goal of a startup called Kimera.
Apple's Siri, the current standard bearer for smartphone AI, has nominal contextual awareness; it understands whether you are speaking to it or trying to determine your location, for instance. Kimera Systems of Portland, Oregon, aims to give the device a broader understanding of what you are doing and why you are doing it. The idea is to adapt to the individual. Think of it as a step toward turning your smartphone into an extension of yourself.
"We want to deploy a 100% decentralized AI layer on top of the existing Internet. We want everyone to be a part of the 'collective intelligence' and decide if and how they want to participate," Kimera Systems CEO Mounir Shita said in an email.
The Kimera AI system attempts to model the world and derive useful intelligence that lets it adapt to the individual. It uses “smart agents” to interact with various functions of the smartphone such as calendar or email apps. Say, you send an invite to several of your friends for a dinner party. You then go shopping for the groceries for the dinner. Your smartphone knows why you are at the grocery store and what you need to buy. Kimera might download and launch a shopping app. In theory, it understands your actions and is aware of your goal.
To do this, Kimera has set up a system that taps the Internet guided by the phone's sensors. The foundation is a type of user account called DigitalMe (DMe) that acts as the hub of an individual's experience and can interact with other DMes.
"[A DMe] can belong to a human, a business, a location, am object, anything. These accounts aim at being a complete digital representation of you. So eventually we expect them to hold everything from your grocery list to your medical history," Shita said.
The DMe interacts with the world through what Kimera calls a Salience Engine. The Salience Engine operates between the device and a so-called neural network of DMes.
"The Salience Engine looks at the DMe accounts as neurons in a potential large neural network," Shita said. "Based on incoming sensory information from various DMe accounts, the Salience Engine starts interconnecting these DMe account into a potentially global neural network by establishing synapses between them. It does so to model and understand the world."
The next layer is known as DMe Smart Agents. The smart agents focus on specific tasks and form the basis of knowing what the user likes, does not like, actions performed and locations they might intend to go.
"The neural net is constantly working to identify intent, goal, and opportunities. This is documented in an intelligent briefing that is delivered to the phone," Shita said.
Kimera is presenting its AI function as a software developer kit (SDK) that can be implemented by app developers, cellular carriers and handset manufacturers. The company is launching a Kickstarter campaign today in attempts to raise $300,000 by November 18. The next step for Kimera is to integrate with the firmware of smartphone manufacturers. It is currently in talks with one large mobile device maker.
Several other companies are working on making smartphones smarter and more autonomous. For instance, Nuance (maker of Dragon voice-recognition software) are working on making smartphone personal assistants more aware of and responsive to the individual using the app. Motorola has unleashed its own “smart actions” functionality in its newest Razr smartphones. Smart actions can, in theory, know when you are at home or at work and when to restrict apps to save on battery life. Apple continues to improve Siri and it may one day be a fully aware personal assistant, while Google Now works on being more contextually aware.
Creating more intelligent smartphones is a goal for the entire mobile industry, and these are just the first steps. The problem will be solved with better hardware, robust and reliable infrastructure (such as “4G” coverage improvements) and software such as Kimera. As the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child. Likewise, it will take the entire mobile industry to help make smartphones more intelligent.