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The AI assistant revolution is more than 50 years in the making

Illustration of the Vergecast logo with an AI face
Illustration by Samar Haddad / The Verge

Today, we have ChatGPT, Bard, Alexa, Siri, and a thousand others. Nearly a half-century ago, there was GUS. GUS, which stood for the Genial Understander System, came out of a project at Xerox PARC in the 1970s that hoped to find ways to teach computers to understand human language.

Enterprising engineers, researchers, linguists, and even users have been longing for a way to talk to their computers pretty much since computers first became a thing. You shouldn’t have to communicate with your device by writing code, they figured, or by clicking in the right boxes in the right order. You should simply be able to talk to your computer like you’d talk to a person. Virtual assistants are a staple of science fiction, a decades-long startup…

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