| Cult of Mac

This could be the ‘social companion robot’ you didn’t know you needed

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Enabot's slogan for the Ebo Air and Ebo SE robots is
Enabot's slogan for the Ebo Air and Ebo SE robots is "always together."
Photo: Enabot

Talk of artificially intelligent personal robots may make some people think of Terminator and “the rise of the machines,” but relax, there’s likely plenty of time before they take over. All nervous kidding aside, in the meantime, companies like Enabot are putting out affordable robots with practical uses. The company launched one on Tuesday.

Following a successful Kickstarter campaign, the company released its Ebo Air “social companion robot.” The little rolling orb is designed to keep the home safe and loved ones entertained and connected, from pets to kids to grandparents, the company said.

Apple and its latest acquisition will make AI music together

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StaffPad being used on iPad
Soon your iPhone can write music just for you.
Photo: David William Hearn

Apple reportedly bought AI Music, a startup that uses artificial intelligence to create songs in real time.

The technology will most likely be integrated into the Apple Photos application for creating background music for slideshows and video montages.

Apple goes on AI shopping spree to make Siri smarter

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Siri Lights
A slew of AI-related acquisitions might make Siri less of a nimrod. Which is important considering it’s built into so many products, like HomePods.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

Apple reportedly bought more companies developing artificial intelligence technology over the past five years than anyone else. A prime goal is to make the Siri voice assistant smarter, according to GlobalData, the market-research firm that compiled a list of AI-related acquisitions by many companies.

Apple acquires Xnor.ai for faster, more private iPhone artificial intelligence

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Xnor.ai promises AI everywhere.
Xnor.ai’s artificial intelligence software for mobile devices is likely headed for iPhones.
Photo: Xnor.ai

Apple purchased Xnor.ai, a company that creates artificial intelligence software for mobile devices. The acquisition will apparently lead to AI applications running directly on iPhones, iPads, etc., not outsourced to the cloud. This should make these tasks more private and quicker.

Laserlike acquisition boosts Apple’s AI capabilities

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The Laserlike app used machine learning to find relevant news articles.
The Laserlike app used machine learning to find relevant news articles.
Photo: Laserlike

Apple bought a small startup that created an app that used machine learning to auotomically find news articles users would be interested in.

The acquisition of Laserlike is expected to  bolster Apple’s artificial intelligence efforts.

How Apple’s AI gurus made Siri an expert in local businesses

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Siri Alexa in voice report
Siri knows the name of your local pizza joint, making it much easier to get directions when you have a craving.
Photo: Apple

Siri is quite good at recognizing what we say, but used to run into difficulties with the names of small businesses. That was until Apple developers found a way to make her much better at this task.

In fact, the new system is more than 40 percent less likely to come up with the wrong business name. 

Ex-Google AI expert will fix Siri’s serious flaws

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Meet Siri's new boss, John Giannandrea.
Siri's new boss, John Giannandrea, has the job of making this voice assistant less terrible.
Photo: Apple

Craig Federighi is no longer in charge of Siri. Responsibility for Apple’s troubled voice assistant has been given to John Giannandrea, who is now in charge of all Apple’s artificial intelligence efforts.

Siri is seen as poor competition for Amazon Alexa, Microsoft Cortana, and Google Assistant. Its weakness is hurting sales of Apple products, including the HomePod.

Neural networks make Google Translate app smarter, more accurate while offline

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Google Translate is now better, even offline
On-device learning should make the Google Translate app much better at its job.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

Neural machine translation (NMT) has made the online version of Google Translate more accurate for years. Today, this AI feature was added to the iOS and Android apps so it can be used offline.

NTM allows the software to learn over time to create better, more natural translations. And this function is available while traveling without a local data plan.

Apple steals Google’s AI wiz to make Siri smarter

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John Giannandrea
Starting today, John Giannandrea heads the team improving the Siri voice assistant.
Photo: Google

John Giannandrea used to run Google’s artificial intelligence division, but now he works for Apple. He’s leading the drive to make the company’s Siri voice assistant smarter, a goal many would agree is overdue.

This is the most high-profile move yet in Apple’s ongoing drive to hire more talent for the Siri team.

Google Lens lets iPhones identify books, flowers, more

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Google Lens in action
Google Lens can pull the contact information out of a business card.
Photo: Google

The image-identification technology in Google Photos is now in the iOS version of this software. Google Lens can find objects and text in pictures and then provide more information. For example, by examining a photo of a business card, the artificial intelligence can pull out all the contact information.