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Apple's ramping up its hiring of machine learning experts

The company wants to better predict customers' needs

Google is aggressively trying to make smartphones more responsive to human needs, and it looks like Apple is joining the push. Reuters reports that Apple has posted dozens of job listings for artificial intelligence experts and recruited applicants from PhD programs. The goal of the hiring spree is to expand Apple's machine learning expertise in order to better predict people's needs.

Apple has already promised more predictive functionality in its apps. The upcoming Apple News app will try to predict what people want to read, and iOS 9's Proactive Assistant tries to anticipate what people are searching for based on context. The assistant is in direct competition with Google's upcoming Now on Tap — a feature that aims to let users search anything on their smartphones and return context-sensitive answers. But Apple could faces challenges competing with Google, given its strict language on privacy. Machine learning works best with large amounts of data — and data-mining is the core of Google's business.

Apple wants to hire 86 additional machine learning expert

Apple is currently trying to hire 86 additional AI experts. The AI job postings mostly have to do with software projects, like Siri. But the company also appears to be hiring experts for its product marketing and retail divisions. That means that machine learning will likely also be used to better target customers. The company has yet to reveal how many of its employees are working on machine learning, Reuters reports, but this latest round of hirings should help close the gap. If Apple can balance intelligent AI with privacy, Google might have some real competition on its hands.