Google's former head of search and AI is joining Apple

05 April, 2018, 01:06 | Author: Brenda Erickson
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It is also expected that Apple will use Giannandrea's experience to improve its own facial recognition software for correctly tagging users' photos, and for turning Siri into a more able and intelligent smart home assistant - an area where Apple lags behind the competition. That's not going to be easy. The announcement comes only a day after Jeff Dean replaced Giannandrea at Google.

It is no secret that voice-based digital assistant Siri is having serious shortcomings due to its limited skill set and occasional inability in comprehending spoken instructions. There are surely more applications of machine learning planned in the future; Giannandrea would likely spearhead those efforts. Apple's most fixable problem with Siri seems to be a lack of attention. For one, the company has never had top-tier research talent.

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. Apple stresses user privacy to a greater degree than Google, which offers free and ad-supported services with the understanding that Google might use your data to improve its technology. As Apple explains: "If many people are submitting the same data, the noise that has been added can average out over large numbers of data points, and Apple can see meaningful information emerge".

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On the other hand, Google CEO Sundar Pichai has been betting big on advances in AI and machine learning. That's a charge that nobody would ever make against Google. Rather, it's doubling down on it, as Cook would say. While Apple's AI is lacking sophistication, John Giannandrea is expected to make some major changes to the AI platform and to put it at the same level as Microsoft's Cortana, Amazon's Alexa and Google's Assistant. At the time Google purchased the company, Metaweb was working on a "semantic web" of linked information online and that work became the foundation of the Google knowledge graph. Apple wants him to pull a similar trick with Siri - and it isn't taking the task lightly. Apple also acquired machine learning and data analysis firms and opened a research and development office in Seattle focused on the field.

In an emailed statement to The Hill, a Google spokesperson said that the company appreciated that some of its employees had strong feelings about its defense work, but emphasized that the program does not involve building weapons for the military.


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