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

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Siri IQ
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.