Apple is reportedly set to join an artificial intelligence research group, Partnership on AI, which also includes Amazon, Alphabet, Google, Facebook and Microsoft among its members.
Apple being admitted into the group could be announced as early as this week, claim sources familiar with the story.
According to the homepage of Partnership on AI, it has three main goals.
These are to support research and recommend best AI practices in areas ranging from ethics and privacy to transparency; to advance public understanding and awareness of AI and its potential benefits and costs; and to provide a regular, structured platform for AI researchers and key stakeholders to communicate directly and openly with each other about relevant issues.
Apple has gradually been embracing AI research more in recent years after falling behind following the aftermath of Siri’s launch. As companies like Google picked up the slack and began using “deep learning” systems to improve everything from translation to its AI assistant Google Now, Apple’s efforts looked more and more dated.
This resulted in a chicken-and-egg scenario where machine learning experts saw better opportunities with other companies, and therefore turned down job opportunities with Apple, which made the decline even worse.
A 2015 report said that Apple’s obsessive approach to secrecy was having a particularly negative effect, since not only could recruits not talk about the work they are involved with, but Apple’s privacy measures also diminished the data sets they had access to for training systems.
More recently, Apple appears to have turned a corner with AI. A great article by Steven Levy lays out how Apple is incorporating machine learning into more of its technologies than ever, while in December Apple published its first ever public AI research paper — describing how it trained an AI algorithm to recognize images.
By signing up to a non-profit group, along with other members of the tech community, it represents another step forward in terms of AI openness on Apple’s part.