The DARPA Project That's Powering the New iPhone 4S

DARPA started on working what we now know as Apple's Siri in 2003

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Apple didn't announce the iPhone 5 on Friday, but they did announce a pretty nifty voice-controlled personal assistant feature. Siri has actually been around for a while, and like the internet itself, it started out as a experimental Defense Department project, as Wired's Steven Levy pointed out during the keynote. Originally a part of the Personal Assistant that Learns (PAL) program from Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Siri started out as SRI International. The technology appealed to the DARPA for making everyday tasks more efficient as much as it did for combat tasks. "Darpa obviously takes a very broad view of its charter," defense analyst Steven Aftergood told Wired in 2003. "Organizing e-mail? Allocating office space? These are to Darpa's mission what Tang is to the space program."

Siri's beginnings were humble.

Siri spun off of SRI International and made its first appearance as a free iPhone app at the D: All Things Digital conference in 2009. Apple bought them a year later, and now, it's like a real-life HAL 9000 for every iPhone. Now, instead of helping military people blow things up more easily, it can help you do more things while you jog.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.