Apple needs to beef up Siri’s capabilities fast and has hired Google’s head of search and artificial intelligence (AI) to get the job done.
Scot John Giannandrea will run Apple’s “machine learning and AI strategy” according to a report in the New York Times which cites an internal email from Apple chief Tim Cook. It was announced that Giannandrea was leaving Google on Monday where he has worked on AI in search and Google Assistant.
Siri has always been able to do the basics well, but understanding some natural language as well as things like follow-up commands just aren’t its forte.
The work being done at Apple and Google has leapt ahead of Apple's AI work in many ways, not least being able to bring you ever more localised and personalised information. We were critical of Siri’s implementation in the Apple HomePod recently but we know it has the potential to improve rapidly.
In the announcement email, Cook says that “John shares our commitment to privacy” – Apple’s stated aim is that it “doesn’t gather your personal information to sell to advertisers or other organisations” but the problem is that virtual assistants need access to more and more of your information to make them increasingly personal.
Siri doesn’t associate information that is sent to Apple servers with your Apple ID, instead associating it with your device through a random identifier.
But despite what Apple says, as time goes on surely Siri will need to interact with more and more third-party services. Is that need for greater interaction and personalisation at odds with Apple’s commitment to privacy? Only time will tell.
Giannandrea’s background is in pure search. He was chief technology officer at Metaweb, a startup that Google bought in 2010 to enable it to better serve answers to specific user queries.
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