Computing Community Consortium Blog

The goal of the Computing Community Consortium (CCC) is to catalyze the computing research community to debate longer range, more audacious research challenges; to build consensus around research visions; to evolve the most promising visions toward clearly defined initiatives; and to work with the funding organizations to move challenges and visions toward funding initiatives. The purpose of this blog is to provide a more immediate, online mechanism for dissemination of visioning concepts and community discussion/debate about them.

Illustrating the Role of Fundamental Computing Research

October 19th, 2011 / in big science, policy, research horizons / by Erwin Gianchandani

Siri, in Apple's iPhone 4S [image courtesy Apple Inc.].White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) Deputy Director Tom Kalil and Senior Advisor Kumar Garg have highlighted the role of fundamental computing research in many of the breakthrough technologies we now use on a daily basis — using as an example Siri, the powerful new tool that Apple has deployed in its latest handset, the iPhone 4S:

Apple earlier this month announced that a virtual personal assistant called Siri would be the premier feature of the new iPhone 4S. People will be able to ask Siri to book a table at a nearby restaurant, make an appointment with a friend or colleague or answer a question using the information from multiple search engines and web sites.


Siri is a significant advance in our ability to develop computers that understand and do what we mean. Many experts believe that this technology — which integrates advances in wireless communications, speech recognition, artificial intelligence and smartphones — will transform the way we interact with information technology.


What you may not know is that this technology is a direct outgrowth of a federally-funded research project called the “Personalized Assistant that Learns.” This project was backed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the same agency that supported the early research that led to the Internet, GPS and stealth aircraft. DARPA wanted to build “cognitive” computers for the military that can reason, learn from experience, be told what to do, explain what they are doing, and reflect on their experience.


Although a start-up company, venture capitalists and Apple itself had to make significant investments to commercialize Siri, federally-funded research played a key role in developing the basic technology.  Federal basic research has also contributed to the other components of your smartphone, including the lithium-ion batteries, the hard drive, the memory chips, and the liquid crystal display.

View the full write-up by Kalil and Garg here.

And learn more about the many opportunities for fundamental computing research in several of today’s national priority areas –including healthcare, sustainability, education, and big data/analytics.

(Contributed by Erwin Gianchandani, CCC Director)

Illustrating the Role of Fundamental Computing Research

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