Apple’s secrecy is damaging its AI research

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iRobot_G_08
Less iRobot than I, Robot it seems.
Photo: 20th Century Fox

Apple’s desire to compete with companies like Facebook and Google in terms of artificial intelligence research is being hurt by… (drum roll) its obsessive secrecy, according to a new report.

Noted neural network researcher Yoshua Bengio says that Apple has started attending big conferences such as the Neural Information Processing Systems (NIPS) conference in Montreal, but tends to keep a low profile. This is in stark contrast with companies such as Google, Microsoft, Facebook and even the Chinese search company Baidu, all of which are scheduled to present research papers at this year’s event.

“Apple is off the scale in terms of secrecy,” Richard Zemel, a professor in the computer science department at the University of Toronto, tells Bloomberg. “They’re completely out of the loop.”

Not wanting to publish papers is only one thing that hurts Apple in the eyes of AI researchers. Another recent report suggests that Apple’s user privacy policy is getting in the way of Apple recruiting some AI students — since they want access to the kind of data Apple doesn’t collect about its customers.

While Apple is gradually recruiting more AI staff (its website lists 42 jobs mentioning artificial intelligence, and 120 which include the words “machine learning”) and is also reportedly set to publish a paper on AI, it’s clear that there’s a lot of catching up to do.

In other words, we’re still a long way from the Cupertino version of Skynet. iNet, anyone?