Google’s former search and artificial intelligence chief John Giannandrea will be joining Apple to head up Siri development. The announcement comes only a day after Jeff Dean replaced Giannandrea at Google.
The New York Times reports, Giannandrea will be the vice president of “Machine Learning and AI Strategy” and will report directly to Tim Cook.
Many industry experts hold the view that Apple has been falling behind when it comes to artificial intelligence. Google and Facebook are seen as the leaders in AI development. Even Microsoft and Amazon have considerable traction in the field.
According to The Verge, several factors have hindered Apple from keeping up with the pack. For one, the company has never had top-tier research talent. The company has largely sequestered itself from the AI community via policies of secrecy. Only in the last year or so has Apple loosen its grip on its researchers enough to allow them to publish papers in the AI community.
For a long time the Cupertino powerhouse has avoided communing with its competition in a burgeoning field where the sharing of discoveries benefits all.
“It also took the company many months to join an ethical AI research consortium co-founded by Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook, and IBM. Industry insiders say Apple’s approach to data collection and user privacy, while commendable from an ideological standpoint, hamper its ability to keep pace with other Silicon Valley heavyweights.”
The acquisition of Giannandrea has the potential to turn that all around. Having lead the AI charge at Google, Giannandrea knows what it takes to get the motor running smoothly. He will likely be instrumental in implementing the internal policy changes necessary to accelerate AI development. He will also attract and recruit the top-tier talent that Apple has been lacking.
Of course, exceptional talent only goes so far. Because of its stance on data collection, Apple still has no access to the massive data sets that Facebook and Google do. These assets are a building blocks of neural networks, which in turn form the foundation of deep-learning algorithms. Without massive amount of data to train AI with, Apple will still be at a disadvantage.
We will have to wait and see if Giannandrea can come up with a way to access copious amounts of data without compromising Apple’s principles.