Hello, future – Siri inventor Adam Cheyer’s top 15 tech predictions

Adam Cheyer
Adam Cheyer

Adam Cheyer

Remember 2004, before the iPhone? Back when the internet was just ten years old and Friendster was the hottest social network out? Right about then, Adam Cheyer – who went on to found the iPhone’s coquettish, still occasionally exasperating voice assistant Siri, as well as Change.org – made ten public predictions about the future of tech.

Today, as the keynote at the Pioneers Festival in Vienna, he rated himself on how well those ten predictions did – and shared five more for where we’re heading…


#1 All media becomes digital – 9/10

In 2004, Google had started to digitise books – they’d released Google News, which Cheyer described as the first Google-assembled newspaper. Now, in 2011, according to Cheyer, revenue from eBooks passed the revenue of physical book sales. Newspapers are a little more difficult to measure, but, to give one metric – in 2010, “if you take all advertising in print… that was surpassed by internet advertising”.

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The same applies to voice, TV and music. Skype, launched in 2004, made up 13 per cent of all international calls in 2010. iTunes, Netflix and Hulu are heavyweight players in the TV space but “we’re not there yet,” Cheyer said. “That’s why it’s not a 10.”

#2 Hello, semantic web – 5/10

Structured and disconnected data, in separate databases, becomes semantically organised. “It’s heading in that direction but it hasn’t had a huge impact…” yet. Initiatives cited included Google Graph, UK startup Evi and Wolfram Alpha. (We’d add Berlin’s bold Wikidata project.)

#3 Goodbye, editors – 4/10

If structured data becomes semantic, unstructured data becomes collaborative. Think blogs (back in 2004, Cheyer had to explain that word), RSS feeds, wikis rather than editors and appointed curators. “But social media’s not an overwhelming driver of news yet,” he pointed out today. Reputable TV stations and print publications still have clout.

#4 Making sense of it all – 4/10

In other words, overlaying data and structure on unstructured data. This continues to happen but he said, “hasn’t yet changed the world in a dramatic way…” (Although we hear IBM’s Watson, the computer that got really, really good at playing Jeopardy, is now starting to look at things like healthcare.)

width="200"#5 Social networking takes off – 10/10

‘Nuff said. Back in 2004, it might not have been certain – but today, with Facebook at one billion active users and Twitter at 500m, there’s no doubt.

#6 Personalisation becomes ubiquitous – 5/10

Apps and services tailored to the consumer, with recommendations to match.

This one’s not quite here yet. “eCommerce is still using personalisation to drive sales, but it’s fairly modest growth,” Cheyer said. “It is starting in advertising…” A possible dampener on this trend, going forward, will be privacy issues.

#7 Public and private content merge – 8/10

Back in 2004, public and private stayed that way. There was a separation between things we owned and things we rented out, things we stored on the computer and accessed on the web. Today, it’s much more fluid – Airbnb, Gmail, Dropbox and Salesforce as just a very few examples.

Hello ComputerHello, computer – Cheyer’s predictions in 2004 spurred Siri

#8 Usable access – 10/10
#9 Apps are similarly transformed (social, collaborative, semantic) – 3/10
#10 Smarter apps and software – 8/10

Together, these last three helped inspire Cheyer to create Siri and can be interpreted as making technology a delight to use. “Apple did this better than anyone else and become the most valuable company in world,” he pointed out.

A key element of future user experience – still relevant today – is multi-model access. “If it’s on a screen, the easiest way is to touch it. If it’s not, the easiest way is to ask it…”

For intelligent applications, he had predicted there would be an assistant that lives on users’ phones, that they could talk to. “I had to go do that one myself.”

Read Cheyer’s five predictions for the future of tech after the jump…


If those last ten spurred Cheyer to create Siri and Change.org, a social network for social causes, what’s driving his thoughts on future projects?

#1 Speech recognition finally works

“Speech is a chicken and egg problem,” Cheyer said. “It relies on good data – we need to model what people say and how they say it, but speech has never been good enough, so people don’t use it enough.” Now, with Siri and its competitors, that will change. “In the next five years, speech will finally work.”

#2 Collaborative coding and app marketplaces

Today, Cheyer said, applications are pretty static but people have a desire to personalise – he expects software will start to allow in-app purchasing by other vendors, and will start to be built in a more collaborative way.

#3 Healthcare gets smart

Structured health data is coming, thanks to top-down changes in regulation and bottom-up improvements in self-measurement. That will enable new forms of diagnosis, patient triage and personalised medicine (hopefully disruptive in a good way…)

#4 Augmented really goes mainstream

The ecosystem and technology are finally ready for this. Google Glass, which now makes its smart eyewear API available to developers, is one of those leading the way.

#5 Hello, dynamic knowledge repositories

Cheyer’s hoping we’ll end up with places, online-enabled, where we can have discussions and work on the most important problems facing humanity. “It’s more out of hope than believing it will happen,” he added.

And the final challenge he laid down to the assembled hundreds at Pioneers? “Take them, invent, go make real companies and do it!”

Image credit: Flickr user jurvetson