May 24, 2024


Apple is expected to release an improved version of its virtual assistant Siri that is powered by generative artificial intelligence — part of the company’s efforts to keep up with other chatbots amid the AI boom.

The New York Times, citing unnamed sources familiar with the matter, reports that the new Siri will be “more conversational and versatile,” and will feature a generative AI-powered system making it capable of chatting instead of just responding to questions one at a time. Siri and the company’s other AI products are expected to make an appearance at Apple’s annual developers conference on June 10.

Early last year, top Apple executives decided Siri needed an upgrade after toying around with OpenAI’s ChatGPT, which made Siri look far behind, The Times reports. The realization kickstarted Apple’s most important reorganization in more than a decade, as it scrambled to catch up in the AI race.

But instead of releasing a direct ChatGPT competitor, Apple decided to improve Siri’s ability to handle tasks it can already do as a virtual assistant, The Times reports. Apple will tout the new Siri as more private than other AI tools, because requests will be processed on iPhones, not in data centers. But the bet could have its downsides, as smaller AI systems are more likely to hallucinate compared to larger ones.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.

Apple is also planning to increase the memory in its new iPhones to support Siri’s AI-powered capabilities, and has been in talks to license complementary AI models behind top chatbots from competitors including Google and OpenAI, The Times reports. The company’s leaders are reportedly also worried about AI’s threats to its smartphone market dominance, because competing products could replace Apple’s iOS software and be used to create other AI-powered apps that would render the App Store, which generates billions in sales each year, less useful.

“It’s always been the Siri vision to have a conversational interface that understands language and context, but it’s a hard problem,” Tom Gruber, a co-founder of Siri who worked at Apple until 2018, told The Times. “Now that the technology has changed, it should be possible to do a much better job of that. So long as it’s not a one-size-fits-all effort to answer anything, then they should be able to avoid trouble.”

Apple has reportedly been poaching AI employees from Google, and has built a “Vision Lab” in Switzerland to house some of its AI efforts. The company has also reportedly partnered with major chipmaker Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company to develop its own AI chips.



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