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Apple's Subtle AI Revolution: Enhancing Core Functions

Apple AI iPhone
By Nicolo Finazzi
Nicolo Finazzi

3 Min

September 13, 2023
  • Apple incorporates AI in iPhones and Watches, prioritizing enhanced core functions.
  • New Watch chip with a "Neural Engine" improves Siri and enables novel interactions.
  • iPhones now automatically recognize people for smoother background blurring.

Apple's recent product releases, including new iPhones and Watches, reveal a subtle but significant integration of AI technology. While the company doesn't explicitly mention "artificial intelligence," it's clear that AI is at the heart of its efforts to enhance user experiences.

One notable development is the introduction of improved semiconductor designs powering AI features in these devices. Rather than aiming for a radical transformation, Apple uses AI to refine fundamental functions. For example, the Series 9 Watch incorporates a new chip with enhanced data processing capabilities, including a four-core "Neural Engine" for faster machine learning tasks. This technology not only makes Apple's voice assistant, Siri, 25% more accurate but also introduces novel ways to interact with the device. Users can now perform actions like answering calls or checking the weather by merely "double-tapping" with their watch hand, a convenient feature for when the other hand is occupied.

Apple also upgrades its camera capabilities. The latest iPhones automatically detect when a person is in the frame, streamlining the background-blurring process without requiring manual adjustments.

While Apple's AI integration may seem discreet, it reflects a strategic approach focused on enhancing core functionalities rather than revolutionary change. In contrast, competitors like Microsoft and Google have pursued more ambitious AI goals. However, concerns about the potential risks of unchecked AI development, especially in generative AI, have been raised in the tech industry.

Apple Massive AI Investments

The incredible efforts by Apple to stay ahead in the AI race are analysed in a new report from The Information. According to the report, Apple is investing millions of dollars per day into artificial intelligence. It is also reportedly working on multiple models across several teams.

One notable division, known as "Foundational Models," focuses on conversational AI. Comprising approximately 16 members, including former Google engineers, this unit is led by John Giannandrea, Apple's Head of AI. Giannandrea, who joined the company in 2018, was tasked with enhancing Siri's capabilities. Interestingly, he has expressed skepticism regarding the utility of AI-powered chatbots.

In addition to conversational AI, Apple has other teams dedicated to AI research. The Visual Intelligence unit concentrates on developing models for image generation. Another group is actively exploring "multimodal AI," a technology capable of recognizing and generating images, videos, and text.

Despite these significant developments, Apple has not yet provided an official comment on this report, leaving room for further speculation about the company's AI ambitions.

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