Apple’s conversational AI efforts began 4 years ago


John Giannandrea
John Giannandrea started Apple working on conversation AI long before ChatGPT came along.
Photo: Apple

Don’t accuse Apple of just waking up to benefits of conversational AI. It reportedly started developers working on voice-driven artificial intelligence systems four years ago.

And the company is now pouring money into the project.

Apple’s work on conversational AI didn’t began after ChatGPT launched

The launch of OpenAI’s ChatGPT in late 2022 introduced the world to what can be done with generative artificial intelligence. Google, Meta and others rushed to match the technology. But Apple has been fairly quiet about AI, aside from CEO Tim Cook assuring the public (and investors) that many Apple products already use it.

Still, it might be easy to assume Cook and other executives were paying zero attention to the potential of conversational AI until ChatGPT came on the scene. That’s not what happened, though.

“Apple’s head of AI, John Giannandrea, authorized the formation of a team to develop conversational AI, known as large-language models, before the technology became a focus of the software industry,” The Information reported Wednesday. The team went to work four years ago, not a few months ago.

Making Siri smarter?

The intention of Giannandrea’s AI team seems to be to make the Siri voice-driven assistant more useful.

“One of its goals is to develop features such as one that allows iPhone customers to use simple voice commands to automate tasks involving multiple steps,” said The Information.

As it stands now, Siri can only handle simple commands like, “Send a text message to Karen,” or “Turn on the bedroom lights.” Few would argue with a goal of improving the system, as it is regularly criticized for its lack of intelligence, especially when compared to a generative AI like ChatGPT.

Apple is apparently on it, and is giving the project the financial backing it needs. Its entire budget for all its artificial intelligence efforts now runs to “millions of dollars a day,” according to The Information.


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