Spotify snaps up AI startup Podz which helps listeners find the perfect podcast


Podz launched its "Audio Newsfeed" on iOS in February.
Photo: Podz

As part of the podcasting arms race between tech giant, Spotify has acquired Podz, an AI podcast discovery service for an undisclosed amount of money. Podz generates (or generated) short audio clips that populated a Instagram Stories-style timeline users could flip through to find podcasts they were likely to enjoy listening to.

Microsoft buys speech recognition company that helped power Siri


Apple’s AI-driven voice-controlled digital assistant Siri
Nuance tech helped give rise to tools like Siri.
Image: Apple

Microsoft has acquired Nuance Communications, the speech recognition AI company which helped* power Siri.

Microsoft snapped up Nuance for a massive $16 billion ($19.7 billion, inclusive of Nuance’s net debt). That’s the most it has spent on a company since buying LinkedIn for $26 billion in 2016.

iOS 14’s adult-content blocker prevents searches for the word ‘Asian’


Apple's adult block
It's likely an example of AI run amok.
Photo: Apple

iOS 14’s built-in pornographic content blocker stymies searches that include the word “Asian,” according to a computer science student.

This means searches for “Asian food” or “Asian countries” are blocked if the adult content filters are enabled. Similar blocks aren’t in place for search terms including “black,” “white,” “Arab,” “French” and other national or racial descriptors.

Voiceitt is an iOS app that will make Alexa easier for people with atypical speech


This could be a game-changer for those who need it.
Photo: Voiceitt

CES 2021 bug For people with non-standard speech — such as those who have experienced strokes, neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s, or developmental disorders — communicating with an AI assistant like Amazon’s Alexa isn’t quite as seamless as it is for many.

With that in mind, a speech recognition startup for atypical speech, called Voiceitt, has developed an accessibility app for iOS that improves Alexa. Here’s how it works.

Apple snaps up AI company which could help make videos searchable in Photos app


ADAM Elements iKlips C -2
Making videos smarter and more easily searchable.
Photo: ADAM Elements

Apple earlier this year snapped up an AI video company, Bloomberg reports. The Barcelona-based Vilynx uses AI technology to help analyze videos to understand what it shows by looking at text, visuals, and audio. This can be used to make the videos more easily searchable.

According to the report, Apple could use this tech to make its Photos app better by allowing users to search videos for people and objects the same way they currently can search photos. It could also help make Siri smarter or improve recommendations in the TV app and more.

Apple launches residency program for those interested in the future of AI


Apple is ramping up its focus on artificial intelligence.
Photo: Scott Schaut/Mansfield Memorial Museum

Apple has launched a new artificial intelligence and machine learning residency program for people from other STEM disciplines wanting to “dip their toe” into the world of cutting edge machine learning.

Michael Rennaker, manager of Apple in Research Academia (ARIA), announced the new initiative on Twitter. The program seeks experts in fields like design, linguistics, neuroscience, and psychology whose interests may cross over with AI.

Apple could ‘lead the industry’ in AI, says Cupertino’s machine learning boss


John Giannandrea
Apple's AI boss says machine learning is being used in more places than ever.
Photo: Apple

Apple is using machine learning technology in more and more of its features, John Giannandrea, the company’s senior vice president for machine learning and AI strategy, reveals in a new interview with Ars Technica.

Giannandrea, who joined Apple from a job at Google, said “there are increasingly fewer and fewer places in iOS where we’re not using machine learning.” This stands in strong contrast to a few years ago — and even the point at which Giannandrea landed his Apple job.

Core ML will now let devs update their AI models between app updates


Core ML
Core ML is a major part of Apple's push into AI.
Photo: Apple

WWDC 2020 Apple has upgraded its Core ML machine learning framework, adding the ability for developers to update their machine learning models on the fly, the company revealed Wednesday.

The ability to update artificial intelligence models outside of the usual app update cycle means that devs can quickly improve the machine learning smarts of particular apps without having to push out an update. That’s huge news for any app developers who feature AI components within their apps.

Apple AI experts work to solve big speech-translation problems


Translation Unsplash
Machine translation isn't easy. But Apple's working to solve it.
Photo: Romain Vignes/Unsplash

Apple is seemingly looking to step up its work in speech translation, showing one more way that Cupertino is looking to incorporate cutting-edge approaches to artificial intelligence into what it does.

In a recent paper, published to the pre-print server arXiv, two Apple research scientists describe the challenges in the field, carrying out a fundamental survey of the problems with current speech translation.

No, they don’t have a magical solution. But the fact that Apple gave them such a task suggests the company takes seriously the need to hone its tools in this area.