Yahoo Wants to Develop a Better Siri

Apple’s Siri may soon have some competition.

Yahoo’s quest to personalize your smartphone interaction now includes a $10 million grant to Carnegie Mellon University to help computers understand your requests in greater detail and even ask follow-up questions.

The partnership, called Project InMind, will last five years and give CMU researchers access to Yahoo’s trove of data. Yahoo fellows will work to develop and test programs that attempt to understand and anticipate human behavior.

“By creating a way for Carnegie Mellon University researchers to work directly with Yahoo software and infrastructure, we hope to speed up the pace of mobile and personalization research and create a better user experience.” Ron Brachman, chief scientist and head of Yahoo Labs, said in a press release.

Yahoo’s agreement will also include the development of “natural language processing,” which could allow users to speak with their mobile phones in a similar fashion to Apple’s Siri.

However, Brachman told MIT Technology Review that Yahoo is seeking to meld contextualized search with voice interaction, something Siri does not do.

The new partnership comes amid a series of moves by CEO Marissa Mayer to accelerate the development of mobile products that personalize and contextualize user experience based on data.

In early 2014, Yahoo acquired mobile personalization start-up Aviate, which attempts to cater a user’s home screen to the time of day and location, as well as location-based app Jybe.

Mayer has not kept her goals much of a secret, recently touted the importance of contextual search to a technology conference.

These efforts seek to take advantage of growing mobile Internet use, particularly mobile search, which tends to generate more contextual queries.

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