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Apple will revamp Siri to catch up with its chatbot competitors| GuyWhoKnowsThings


Apple's top software executives decided early last year that Siri, the company's virtual assistant, needed a brain transplant.

The decision came after executives Craig Federighi and John Giannandrea spent weeks testing OpenAI's new chatbot. ChatGPT. The use of the product generative artificial intelligencethat can write poetry, create computer code and answer complex questions, made Siri seem old-fashioned, said two people familiar with the company's work, who were not authorized to speak publicly.

Introduced in 2011 as the original virtual assistant On all iPhones, Siri had been limited for years to individual requests and had never been able to follow a conversation. Questions are often misinterpreted. ChatGPT, on the other hand, knew that if someone asked about the weather in San Francisco and then said, “What about New York?” that user wanted another forecast.

The understanding that new technology had surpassed Siri launched the most significant reorganization of the technology giant in more than a decade. Determined to catch up in the tech industry's AI race, Apple has made generative AI a campaign project: the company's special internal label it uses to organize employees around one-time initiatives. every decade.

Apple is expected to show off its AI work at its annual developers conference on June 10, when it releases an improved Siri that is more conversational and versatile, according to three people familiar with the company's work, who were not permitted to speak publicly. . Siri's underlying technology will include a new generative artificial intelligence system that will allow you to chat instead of answering questions one at a time.

The Siri update is at the forefront of a broader effort to adopt generative AI across Apple's business. The company is also increasing the memory of this year's iPhones to support its new Siri capabilities. and has argued License of complementary AI models. which power chatbots from several companies, including Google, Cohere, and OpenAI.

An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment.

Apple executives are concerned that new artificial intelligence technology threatens the company's dominance in the global smartphone market because it has the potential to become the leading operating system, displacing the iPhone's iOS software, two people familiar said. with the thinking of Apple leaders, who were not allowed to speak in public. This new technology could also create an ecosystem of artificial intelligence apps, known as agents, that can order Ubers or schedule calendar appointments, undercutting Apple's App Store, which generates about $24 billion in annual sales.

Apple also fears that if it fails to develop its own artificial intelligence system, the iPhone could become a “dumb brick” compared to other technologies. While it's unclear how many people use Siri regularly, the iPhone currently accounts for 85 percent of global smartphone profits and generates more than $200 billion in sales.

That sense of urgency contributed to Apple's decision to cancel its other big bet – a $10 billion project to develop a self-driving car – and reassign hundreds of engineers to work on AI

Apple has also explored creating servers that run on its iPhone and Mac processors, two of these people said. Doing so could help Apple save money and create consistency between the tools used for processes in the cloud and on its devices.

Instead of competing directly with ChatGPT by launching a chatbot that does things like write poetry, the three people familiar with its work said, Apple has focused on making Siri better at handling tasks it already performs, including setting timers, creating calendar appointments and add items to a shopping list. You could also summarize text messages.

Apple plans to present the improved Siri as more private than rival AI services because it will process requests on iPhones rather than remotely in data centers. The strategy will also save money. OpenAI spends around 12 cents for every word ChatGPT generates due to cloud computing costs.

(The New York Times defendant OpenAI and its partner, Microsoft, in December for copyright infringement of news content related to AI systems).

But Apple faces risks by relying on a smaller AI system housed in iPhones rather than a larger one stored in a data center. Research has found that smaller AI systems could be more likely to make errors, known as hallucinations, than larger ones.

“The vision for Siri has always been to have a conversational interface that understands language and context, but it's a difficult problem,” said Tom Gruber, a Siri co-founder who worked at Apple until 2018. “Now that the technology has changed, it should be possible to do a much better job of it. As long as it's not a one-time effort to answer anything, then they should be able to avoid problems.”

Apple has several advantages in the AI ​​race, including more than two billion devices in use worldwide where it can distribute AI products. It also has a leading semiconductor team that has been manufacturing sophisticated chips capable of powering artificial intelligence tasks such as facial recognition.

But over the past decade, Apple has struggled to develop a comprehensive AI strategy, and Siri has not seen any major improvements since its introduction. The assistant's difficulties weakened the appeal of the company's HomePod smart speaker because it couldn't consistently perform simple tasks, such as fulfilling a song request.

The Siri team has failed to get the kind of attention and resources that other groups within Apple received, said John Burkey, who worked at Siri for two years before founding a generative artificial intelligence platform, Brighten.ai. Company divisions, such as software and hardware, operate independently of each other and share limited information. But AI needs to be integrated into products to be successful.

“It's not in Apple's DNA,” Burkey said. “It's a blind spot.”

Apple has also had difficulty recruiting and retaining top AI researchers. Over the years, it has acquired AI companies led by leaders in the field, but they all left after a few years.

The reasons for their departures vary, but one factor is Apple's secrecy. The company publishes fewer articles about its AI work than Google, Meta and Microsoft, and it doesn't participate in conferences in the same way that its rivals do.

“Scientific researchers say, 'What are my other options? Can I go back to the academy? Can I go to a research institute, somewhere where I can work a little more outdoors?'” said Ruslan Salakhutdinov, a prominent AI researcher, who left Apple in 2020 to return to Carnegie Mellon University.

In recent months, Apple has increased the number of artificial intelligence articles it publishes. But prominent AI researchers have questioned the value of the articles, saying they are more about creating the impression of meaningful work than providing examples of what Apple can bring to the market.

Tsu-Jui Fu, an Apple intern and doctoral student in artificial intelligence at the University of California, Santa Barbara, wrote one of Apple's recent AI articles. He spent last summer developing a system for editing photos with written commands instead of Photoshop tools. He said Apple supported the project by providing the GPUs needed to train the system, but that he had no interaction with the AI ​​team working on Apple products.

Although he said he had interviewed for full-time jobs at Adobe and Nvidia, he plans to return to Apple after graduating because he believes he can make a bigger difference there.

“AI products and research are emerging at Apple, but most companies are very mature,” Fu said in an interview with The Times. “At Apple, I can have more space to lead a project instead of just being a member of a team doing something.”


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