Apple wises up about AI

Apple has been a pioneer in the technology and communications industries for decades, and now they’re looking to break into an even newer frontier: Artificial intelligence.


On Monday, Oct. 17, Russ Salakhutdinov, a professor in the Machine Learning department of Carnegie Mellon University, announced on Twitter his new role as the Apple Director of AI Research. He also provided the Apple job posting, inviting people to apply to be members of his new team.


The main objective of Apple’s newly created Artificial Intelligence research team will be to discover ways to implement and improve Siri across all of their products. Tim Cook elaborated that these deep engineering AI initiatives could include increasing battery life on your phone, suggesting songs to Apple Music subscribers, and helping you remember where you parked your car. To aid these lofty pursuits, Apple is building two large research and development bases in China and Japan.


While this is a very exciting announcement for Apple and Apple lovers, it’s also being viewed as a move to keep up with other industry leaders. In September companies including Facebook, Amazon, Google, IBM, Alphabet, and Microsoft united to form the Partnership on AI. This development was fueled by the fact that artificial intelligence advancements will be rooted in data, and these companies own inordinate amounts of audience information. Even though the participating companies are industry competitors, the hope is that the alliance will provide a forum for discussions on advancements in artificial intelligence, as well as the ethical implications about new technologies. In effort to create transparency and educate the public about these new developments, the Partnership on AI will make discussions and meeting minutes publicly available.

Apple’s absence from this partnership has not gone unnoticed, but the tech company has a reputation for secrecy in innovations. Their researchers usually don’t present at conferences, publish papers, or even mention new technologies until the official press conference announcement. This might change with Salakhutdinov’s new role, as he’ll still continue to work part-time at Carnegie Melon on similar AI research. His projects often focus on enabling machines to understand human interactions as well as unstructured web data. You can check him out on Twitter @rsalakhu if you want to learn more about his research and robotic learning models, and hopefully gain some insight into Apple’s new AI research!




  1. Nice post and great choice — this was a really exciting announcement this week. I hope that they will be doing more than just improving Siri. Apple seems like the company that could really make a significant impact on AI.

    I was not aware of the Partnership of AI, but I can imagine them being hurt by that exclusion. Also a great point about the secrecy of the firm playing into a desire to work on their own proprietary research. Hopefully this will fuel competition that can aggressively push the development of these technologies.

  2. bishopkh1 · ·

    Great post! Definitely interesting to see Apple taking the road of secrecy rather than collaborating in the Partnership of AI. With technology that will likely be so impactful to our community, I’d hope that the many different perspectives within the Partnership will be able to develop a good use for AI in businesses. I worry that with Apple working on this technology alone, they could run into road blocks or even develop the technology with a narrow perspective.

  3. Watson has been the big name on the AI scene for sometime now, but other companies (Apple included) are starting to catch-up. Salesforce, Google, Facebook, Amazon and just about everyone else are making investments in AI space.

    My perspective on this area is that an advantage in AI is going to come down to data. The more data that you can put through a machine learning application, the more improvement you will see in the application. This is why IBM has been on a data-centric acquisition spree in the last few years. They have to feed Watson. One of the most interesting acquisitions IBM made was The Weather Channel. However, when you think about meteorology, it is all about predictive models and those models get better when the data is improved. A great place for AI.

  4. Great topic choice, I had missed this news this week. I understand Apple’s need for secrecy as a way to keep competitive advantages, however as noted by other readers feel that it will ultimately leave them trailing behind more open competitors. They simply will not have all the data necessary to succeed against competitors who are pooling resources.

%d bloggers like this: