Virtual assistant software is something that most of us use every day to set reminders or to search for information. All platforms have some sort of version of virtual assistant, such as Google Now's voice recognition feature, and of course Siri and Cortana from Apple and Microsoft respectively. But there is about to be a new player in the market, one that will be every bit as powerful and even offer some things that the big boys can not offer. To make it all even better, it is open source.
This open source program comes from the folks at the University of Michigan's Clarity-Lab and it is called Sirius. This open source project has some pretty hefty backers funding it. The most notable would be Google, as well as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency or DARPA, and the National Science Foundation. Currently the project is on GitHub – a collaboration website for developers and coders – and being that it is on GitHub and open source, anyone can contribute to the effort. It will also be pushed out under the BSD license, which means that anyone would be able to use if for free for their projects or to distribute the software. This will allow makers, researchers, developers and even those looking to make a science fair project will be able to utilize Sirius's capabilities in their projects.
One of the more notable features that Sirius has is the ability to take a shot with your camera, send it over to Sirius, and then you can ask a question about the image. This is something that virtual assistants that are on the market today are incapable of and is certainly a handy new feature. You will not see this on your mobile device as of yet however. Currently, this project is only up and running on Ubuntu Linux desktops. The project is also a patchwork of many different projects, so in order to make this work you would have to download all the other programs from these other projects to get it working at this point. The different programs can all be downloaded via a download suite, which makes things easier. There is also a tutorial on how to get all the programs up and running so that it works as it should. Keep in mind, this project is in the early stages, but hopefully will make its way to mobile devices and other desktops as well. This type of project has been attempted before, with not so great results. Hopefully with such high power backing, this project will gain traction and catch on and become a success.