April 14, 2024

Apple has added another artificial intelligence firm to its portfolio as it furthers its push forward with AI technology.

The iPhone and Macbook maker acquired DarwinAI, a Waterloo, Ontario-based AI startup earlier this year, with dozens of employees joining Apple’s AI division, Bloomberg reported. The Canadian company has developed AI tech for visually inspecting components during manufacturing. It’s also developed technology meant to make AI systems smaller and faster.

“This technology will likely be rolled out to Apple’s supply chain, a common approach Apple uses to make its component manufactures more efficient,” Gene Munster, managing partner at Deepwater Asset Management, wrote on X. 

DarwinAI had raised more than $15 million as of late 2022, according to Communitech, a Canadian startup community. The startup has worked with Intel and Lockheed Martin, among other partners. Alexander Wong, DarwinAI’s co-founder and a professor at the University of Waterloo, has joined Apple to direct its AI group, according to Bloomberg.

Apple and Wong did not immediately return Quartz’s requests for comment.

DarwinAI is just the latest AI startup Apple has acquired in recent years. Since 2017, the Cupertino, California-based tech giant has been the top buyer of AI and machine learning companies, purchasing nearly twice as many as Microsoft and Meta.

Despite its acquisitions, Apple needs to catch up in the generative AI race as OpenAI, Google, and Microsoft charge forward with their own offerings. Apple CEO Tim Cook has promised to “break new ground” on generative AI. The company has reportedly been testing AI features for its iOS 18 software and software used in internal operations.

“In terms of generative AI, which, I’d guess, is your focus, we have a lot of work going on internally as I’ve alluded to before,” Cook told a group of investors and analysts on Feb. 1. “[W]e’ve got some things that we are incredibly excited about that we’ll be talking about later this year.”

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