Apple hires former Google AI chief John Giannandrea

05 April, 2018, 01:21 | Author: Shannon Newton

John Giannandrea, who headed Google's search and AI unit, had announced stepping down from his role and then one-day afterward was hired by Apple.

Whether or not making computers smarter and more personal means improving search features with AI remains to be seen.

The conventional wisdom is that Apple is a laggard in the race to infuse consumer technology with artificial intelligence. Giannandrea also oversaw the integration of machine learning into Google's main search algorithm, called RankBrain. Despite this early lead, Apple has focused more on hardware, allowing both Google and Amazon to lap it with their own digital assistant AI.

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In his work heading up Apple's machine learning and AI strategy, Giannandrea will influence products like Core ML for iOS app developers and the dedicated AI chip reportedly under development, as well as the struggling Siri assistant. Amazon's Alexa and Google Assistant have made strides over the past few years in voice recognition and information requests, and while Siri helped define the idea of an AI-assistant, it has fallen behind in terms of capability. 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). Looking at the pace at which the counterparts are unlocking AI huge potential, Giannandrea's recruitment is a big catch for Apple. Curiously, larger and more complex - perhaps more intelligent - AIs were more likely to attack their competitors than smaller, simpler neutral networks.

Giannandrea may have a steeper curve at Apple than he had at Google due to its emphasis on user privacy.

Siri isn't the only way Apple can use artificial intelligence.

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Apple, although the pioneer of personal virtual assistants with the likes of Siri, now lacks access to data as well as research talent to succeed in AI development. Engineers with AI expertise are in high demand at the Silicon Valley right now, sometimes fetching salaries exceeding eight figures.

When it comes to concerns of the rapid advancements of AI technology, Giannandrea has previously said in an MIT interview, "I understand why people are concerned about it but I think it's gotten way too much airtime".

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