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Next iPhone will tune into your tastes

If Xerox PARC's Magitti has its way

If you thought that Apple's iPhone was smart you should take a look at what mobile boffins are working on now.

Apple famously took the idea for the Macintosh user interface from Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center Inc. (PARC). Eventually that evolved into Mac OS X, on which the iPhone is based.

Now PARC engineers have developed software that can make recommendations about local restaurants, concerts, shopping areas and other activities based on the time of day, the user's physical location and the user's personal tastes.

The software, called rather disgustingly Magitti (does it also help anglers find bait?), turn a mobile phone into a super-smart PDA.

"We're trying to make [the mobile phone] more like a human," Victoria Bellotti, a principal scientist at PARC, told Computerworld.

"Instead of just directing stuff at you, it tries to make inferences about what kind of activity you're engaged in. On a Sunday afternoon, it might suggest going to a park or a gallery. It will learn patterns based on what you tend to show an interest in. It looks at things like where you go, what recommendations you liked. It's like having a companion with you."

Or like having your mum constantly suggest what you should be doing instead of staying in bed, slumping in front of the telly or going to the pub.

Bellotti said the software uses artificial intelligence algorithms that make inferences about what the user is doing by comparing the GPS location of, say, a restaurant he frequents for brunch, with a database of eateries. Based on the knowledge the Magitti accumulates, recommendations will change, and become more honed, over time.

Of course, the potential of advertising is sure to bend the whole thing into sponsored businesses that try to make you eat your breakfast, lunch and dinner at McDonalds or Starbucks, or watch the latest Vince Vaughn movie even though you think he's incredibly overrated – and therefore destroy the whole concept very quickly.

Bellotti says that it is tentatively slated for release during 2009.

However, seeing as nearly every great Xerox PARC invention only sees the day when someone else buys/copies/steals it, I'd suggest that Apple's iPhone is more likely to do something similar around the same time.

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