We encourage you to start your reading with the next section to get the whole story, but we've collected the top benefits here so that you have easy access to them later.
The top benefits of backing this project:
- You will advance the state-of-the-art in conversational artificial intelligence (AI) and it will be demonstrated with Microsoft's Machine Comprehension Test (MCTest).
- You will get this AI into your pocket (in the Sofilia app) before it's publicly available. (For backers at $10 and above.)
- For software developers, you will participate in designing Sofilia's API ($99) and access the pre-release API ($499).
Top benefits of having the Sofilia app:
Sofilia will have significant advantages over today's Siri, Cortana, and Google Now. This personal digital assistant will have all of the usual ways of controlling your smartphone and getting information, and also will:
- Understand better what you’re asking for.
- Engage in conversation to clarify requests, to learn about you, and simply to engage in conversation.
- Remember and integrate everything you say.
- Build a model of self and the world over a lifetime of use. No two Sofilias will be the same.
Who is Sofilia?
You know what it's like to have a great conversation. The other person gets you. You exchange ideas, not just words. It's mentally and emotionally satisfying.
Why can't computers do that?
Today's natural-language software focuses on word patterns rather than meaning. This focus has helped computer scientists solve certain real-world problems, like getting your phone to set a timer or create a calendar event, but it won't get us meaningful conversations. If the software doesn't model meaning and work with meaning, it can't have meaningful conversations.
That's what Sofilia is for. The Sofilia natural-language engine is existing software that converts natural-language text to an internal representation of the meaning behind the text, and back again.
(For the technically inclined, Sofilia is software that uses an augmented grammar to convert natural-language text to and from a "semantic triple" database, or "triplestore." Semantic triples are a way for computers to store, manipulate, and reason with meaning. There is a lot of software today for working with triplestores in various contexts, but you need a person to create the semantic triples manually or by using special "semi-structured" languages. There is currently no software that converts unrestricted natural-language text to and from semantic triples. Again, that's what Sofilia is for.)
Our goal is simple: to create software you can have a conversation with.
The Sofilia Advantage
The value proposition of Sofilia is straightforward, yet shattering: Every single word in every sentence is parsed, understood, and related to the rest of the sentence, the conversation, and the world. This is not text-pattern-matching software, but true natural-language understanding. Sofilia technology will enable not only better Siri-style software, but true JARVIS-style software--real dialog, real conversations.
What is the Goal of this Kickstarter Project?
The Sofilia natural-language engine is complete and well-tested on small (yet complex) datasets. The test datasets are small because the grammar database that drives the software is currently created by hand, and that takes a long time (many months of development for a reasonably-sized grammar). In order to apply Sofilia to unrestricted text, a large grammar database must be created. In addition, in order to show Sofilia's capabilities relative to other natural-language software, Sofilia must be evaluated by an industry-standard test. Lastly, we would like to create an interactive Sofilia conversational application and test it with a very limited set of users (that's you!). It is these three tasks together that are the goal of this Kickstarter project.
For the industry-standard evaluation, we will use Microsoft Research's "MCTest--A Challenge Dataset for the Machine Comprehension of Text." MCTest is a reading comprehension test for natural-language software. As Microsoft says, MCTest is a "set of 660 stories and associated questions intended for research on the machine comprehension of text." Along with the test, Microsoft published their own test results from a typical natural-language processing system so that other researchers would have something for comparison. Microsoft's baseline natural-language understanding software got about 60% of the questions correct, versus over 95% correct for humans, and 25% correct for random answers. We believe that Sofilia can beat Microsoft's score significantly.
After successful completion of MCTest, we'll release an app for Android and iOS devices where backers at the $10 and above levels can interact directly with Sofilia in English. The features of this app will be designed over the coming months, but it will be based on the capabilities developed in preparation for MCTest. It's safe to say that it will be worlds beyond any "chatbot" available today. The ultimate goal is to have an actual real, nuanced conversation, with clear understanding on both sides. The immediate project goal is to reach a capability way beyond the software that you're familiar with today.
How Will the Money Be Used?
The funds from this Kickstarter will pay for software development, culminating in a version of the Sofilia natural-language engine that answers reading comprehension questions in Microsoft's MCTest (described above). The results will be described in a paper submitted to Microsoft for industry review. Following a successful outcome with MCTest, a mobile app will be shared exclusively with Kickstarter backers who backed at the $10 level or above.
We don't get a penny if the full funding goal isn't reached by the target date. It's really important that you pledge right now so that we're certain to make it.
Why is Sofilia Important?
In addition to the inherent value present in a greater understanding of language, intelligence, and mind, Sofilia-based technology has the following commercial and philanthropic potential applications:
- Better web search.
- Better voice recognition, by recognizing words in the context of conversation.
- Better service from automated voice-response units (VRUs).
- Voice control of all kinds.
- Conversational interaction with game characters.
- Conversational interface to commercial databases.
- Social media comprehension. (Beyond sentiment analysis!)
- Indexing and searching audio recordings.
- Expert systems of all kinds.
- Better access to medical advice.
- Executive summaries.
- Better translation.
- Home automation for persons with disabilities.
- A real personal assistant.
These are the tip of the iceberg. Consider the fact that Google has scanned the full content of over 30 million books. Imagine Sofilia reading all of those books. Imagine asking any question and getting direct answers from the sum of human knowledge. What is that worth?
What Is in Sofilia's Future?
Investors and entrepreneurs are already showing great interest in Sofilia and are ready to pursue productization in a variety of areas. They just need to see Sofilia do well on MCTest. Early Sofilia backers (you) will receive deep discounts -- free whenever possible -- and special access to future products and projects. (Kickstarter doesn't allow us to specify these as actual rewards, since they're not being produced as part of this Kickstarter project. But, we want you to know that we are committed to doing it.) This project is the beginning of something truly amazing.
Who Are You?
You are a very uncommon person. You are a futurist. You see the brilliant potential of the next 40 years. You can't stop watching TED Talks. You're excited about artificial intelligence helping people and transforming the world. You want to be able to have a natural conversation with a computer. And you believe it's possible. And inevitable. You know that breakthroughs come from unexpected places. Google, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo, Dell -- each one was started by a couple of people with a vision in a dorm room or garage. You are the visionary. You are the founder of Sofilia's future.
Who is behind the Sofilia project?
Sofilia was started in 2002 as a side project by Dave Grundgeiger simply because he wanted to write conversational software. By day Dave is principal software architect at a fast-growing technology startup (not his own). He's written O'Reilly books on software development and articles appearing in Microsoft's MSDN Magazine and elsewhere. When he's not doing the above, Dave is with family or working on Sofilia. For Dave, the Sofilia project provides an opportunity to dive deep into an investigation of language, intelligence, and mind, and how cool is that? Dave is well respected by his peers and other software development experts. See the end of this page for some of his many testimonials.
The Sofilia project is backed by a world-class advisory team.
Jackie is the CEO and founder of Smart Solutions, a leading provider of software-development services.
Jim is a technology enthusiast who has worked as a consultant to dozens of companies and many government agencies. Jim has developed software professionally more than twenty years. He has been involved with many start up tech companies and has founded two of his own companies. Jim's latest passion is mobile development and he has published several apps in the last few years.
Jim and Dave have worked together for the last 7 years on various projects. Dave and Jim believe in the computer's potential to shape the future and to make the world a better place--a belief that one person with a computer and a dream can change the world. Jim believes that Dave is that person.
Bill is an expert software developer and project leader, and has worked with Dave in multiple capacities and for multiple clients and employers for the better part of a decade. He thinks Sofilia will knock the ball out of the park.
Testimonials and Endorsements
for principal architect Dave Grundgeiger and the Sofilia project:
"A brilliant and innovative developer." -- Gary Rainbow, Lead Application Developer, QBE North America
"The kind of visionary, passionate thinker that can accomplish incredible things." -- Chuck Cross, CTO, Echo Ridge Partners
"Stands out among software engineers." -- Adam Steinert, Lead Applications Architect, Yahara Software
"One of the smartest people I've ever met." -- Roger Martin, Owner and Senior Software Architect, Tech Info Systems
"Only rarely has someone of his calibre crossed my path." -- Mike Bertrand, IT Teacher (ret), Madison Area Technical College
"In the course of my editing his books at O'Reilly & Associates, I was enormously impressed with his enthusiasm, dedication, and the enormous breadth of his technical expertise." -- Ron Petrusha, Senior Programming Writer, Developer Division, Microsoft Corporation
"I will jump at the chance to work with him again." -- Anson Goldade, President, StreamText.Net, Inc.
"Delivers elegant solutions to hard problems." -- Nate Pink, Senior Developer, Delphic Digital
"If anyone can accomplish what he's set out to do with Sofilia, it's him." -- Jason J. Gullickson, Chief Engineer, Murfie Music
"Focused, hard-working, fast. He takes 'great' to the next level. I have tremendous respect for him." -- Terry Henning, Principal Software Engineer, Natus Medical, Inc.
"One of the best engineers I know." -- Joe Johnson, Software Engineer, Morgridge Institute for Research
"His deep thinking on the right way to build software is top of the scale." -- Shawn D. Belling, Vice-President/eCommerce Practice Manager, CloudCraze
"Throughout one's career you have the opportunity to work with a few exceptional individuals – Dave is one of those people" -- Bryan Haack, IT Leadership Consultant, BLH IT Consulting LLC
"Delivers on his promises." -- Susan Harvey, Project Management Consultant, Sundial Software
"A tremendous asset to the projects he chooses to take on. I will be supporting him in this project." -- Thane Hafterson, Enterprise Architect
"Very knowledgeable in his field." -- Kimberly Grosskreutz, Senior Developer
"His work as a software architect and engineer is rock-solid. He's the guy for this." -- Chris Cohen, Quality Assurance Professional
"One of the most talented software architects I've worked with. I can't say enough." -- Vinay Rudrappa, AVP, DevOps, Build-Release Engineering & Monitoring, QBE North America
"A true professional, with the passion and the persistence to realize his vision for Sofilia." -- Brian Schiro, Director – Information Technology
"I can't say enough 'good' about his work! Detailed, well-engineered, on-time, professional." -- John Krieger, IT Consultant, Adesys
"Deeply passionate about technology and software engineering, he has a deep understanding of software architecture and development practices." -- Scott Smith, Lead Software Developer
"Always very pragmatic, gets the job at hand done, with a consistent eye on the future." -- Pattrick King, Application Development Architect, Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions
"A rare ability to combine a sophisticated understanding of software architecture with get-it-done practicality." -- Varon Fugman, Senior Systems Developer, Jack Link's Beef Jerky
"Smart and trustworthy." -- Ethan Strauss, Bioinformatics Sr. Scientist
"A unique ability to implement complex logic in a way that's sophisticated, elegant, and clear. In the years I worked with him he always accomplished his goals. I expect he will do the same with this project!" -- Corey Haymond, Lead Software Developer
"An approach to software development that is second-to-none." -- Karin Kamps, SharePoint Developer, The Management Group, Inc.
"A brilliant software developer/architect in addition to just being a very good person." -- Joel Conrad, IT Management Consultant
"Knowledgeable and passionate about technology." -- Isaac Levin, Solutions Developer, Avanade
"I've been fortunate to work with Dave at multiple companies. He is highly sought after." -- Jeff Christopher, Vice President - Information Technology
"A natural leader." -- Aaron Tobison, Application Developer, QBE North America
"If anyone can do this, it's him." -- Matt Hendricksen, Senior Software Developer
"A talented technologist and a good, conscientious person." -- Dan Sinclair, Lead Software Developer
"Visionary, driven, and smart. It's rare you find such a gifted software architect with the development skills to match." -- Nathaniel Ruck, Manager - Business Software Applications
"He translates leading-edge theoretical concepts into practical realities. In our 20-year acquaintance, he's been my most exciting colleague to watch." -- Anthony Frey, Director of Technical Services, Farwell Project Advisors
"I have been constantly amazed by his very unique ability to establish a creative vision and then bring it to fruition through relentless focus and hard work. I encourage others to join me in supporting this project." -- Garrett Peterson, Director of Life Science Technology, Yahara Software
Risks and challenges
This is a risky project, because it covers new ground. The risk is that Sofilia's performance on Microsoft's MCTest could fall short of expectations. And if Sofilia does worse than Microsoft's baseline score of about 60% correct answers, we may have to choose not to release the private Sofilia mobile app described at the $10 level or the private API access described at the $499 level, as they may not be usable in that case. Since the software development will have already been done at that point, we won't be able to refund contributions if that happens. If this risk is not acceptable to you, please don't back the project.
That said, it's our intention to succeed, and we won't stop until we do.
We believe in abundant, clear, open communication. We'll have frequent project updates, and we'll do our best to answer backer questions along the way. You'll always have a window into how the project is doing. The MCTest report will be published regardless of outcome, providing additional insight into the project.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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