Apple hires Google AI chief
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Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) seems desperate to strengthen its grip on the Artificial Intelligence, aka AI, realm. Lately, the Cupertino giant has been lagging behind its peers in the AI arena and has been facing heat especially due to its oft-criticized digital assistant. In a bid to catch up with its AI rivals, Apple has managed to hook Google’s AI chief. A downright step from the company who is deliberate to acquire some ground on the AI turf.

Apple has hired John Giannandrea, who stepped down from his position as Google’s Chief of Search and Artifical Intelligence (AI) yesterday, reports The New York Times.

Apple said on Tuesday that Giannandrea will run Apple’s “machine learning and AI strategy” He will be one of the 16 executives who report directly to the Apple CEO, Tim Cook.

The hire is a fairly significant victory for Apple which has lately been facing criticism in the AI space, especially because of its AI-based personal assistant Siri. The move comes as an overall effort to enhance Siri that has been pointed out frequently for being ‘less-effective’ than competitors like Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant.

At Google, Mr. Giannandrea helped lead the push to integrate AI throughout Google products including internet search, Gmail and the Google Assistant. Prior to joining Apple, Giannandrea, a machine learning expert, joined Google in 2010 when the company acquired Metaweb, a startup where he worked as the Chief Technology Officer (CTO).

Apple has recently been busy bolstering its AI team. Last week the company was reported to go an hiring spree with 161 Siri-related job positions. Among other high-profile positions, Apple hired Russ Salakhutdinov, a Carnegie Mellon University professor, as the director of AI research back in October 2016. On the contrary, the company didn’t even publish AI research until 2016, a common practice among AI researchers at Facebook and Google. Also, Apple took quite some time to join an AI research group called the “Partnership on AI” co-founded by Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook and IBM.

Apple AI’s Lacking Sophistication

Apple has found Siri to be at the front and centre about the accusations of being less-effective and unintelligent when compared to its other AI cousins – Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. Apple was the first to start the AI race with Siri in 2011, yet now it has been trailing behind its rivals. Starting first and reaching late doesn’t make sense right!

It is no secret that voice-based digital assistant Siri is having serious shortcomings due to its limited skill set and occasional inability in comprehending spoken instructions. Apple, though it defined the need for a digital assistant in the early market, it lacked in sheer access to data and had lesser AI-centered research talent and resources than its rivals.

A recent Study by LoupVentures highlights the lagging intelligence of Siri when compared to her AI cousins – Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.

Giannandrea is a huge win for Apple as the company is hustling to make progress in the fast-moving and imperative AI technologies like computer vision, neural networks, deep learning and NLP.

In an email obtained by The New York Times, Mr. Cook said,Our technology must be infused with the values we all hold dear,”. He added, “John shares our commitment to privacy and our thoughtful approach as we make computers even smarter and more personal.”

Acquiring more external talent is certainly a pre-requisite for Apple to continue development and improvise on its AI infrastructure and algorithms. The company believes to achieve all this without hampering its norms on privacy.

Giannandrea believes that AI won’t make humans ‘obsolete’, but is more concerned with the algorithmic bias that has already crept into many ML powered systems, as per an MIT Technology review.