Apple has started blogging to draw attention to its AI work

Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images

After years of near-silence, Apple is slowly starting to make a bit of noise about its work on artificial intelligence. Last December the iPhone maker shared its first public research paper on the topic; this June it announced new tools to speed up machine learning on the iPhone; and today it started blogging. Sort of.

The company’s new website, titled “Apple Machine Learning Journal,” is a bit grander than a blog. But it looks like it will have the same basic function: keeping readers up to date in a relatively accessible manner. “Here, you can read posts written by Apple engineers about their work using machine learning technologies,” says the opening post, before inviting feedback from researchers, students, and developers.

As the perennial question for bloggers goes, however: what’s the point? What are you trying to achieve? The answer is familiar: Apple wants more attention.

It’s clear that the recent focus on AI in the world of tech hasn’t been kind to the iPhone maker. The company is perceived as lagging behind competitors like Google and Facebook, both in terms of attracting talent and shipping products. Other tech companies regularly publish new and exciting research, which makes headlines and gets researchers excited to work for them. Starting a blog doesn’t do much to counter the tide of new work coming out of somewhere like DeepMind, but it is another small step into public life. Notably, at the bottom of Apple’s new blog, prominently displayed, is a link to the company’s jobs site, encouraging readers to apply now.

A GIF from Apple’s first public machine learning paper, comparing synthetic eyes used to train AI.

What’s most interesting, though, is the blog’s actual content. The first post (actually a re-post of the paper the company published last December, but with simpler language) deals with one of the core weaknesses of Apple’s AI approach: its lack of data.

Much of contemporary AI’s prowess stems from its ability to sieve patterns out of huge stacks of digital information. Companies like Google, Amazon, and Facebook have access to a lot of user data, but Apple, with its philosophy of not snooping on customers — in favor of charging megabucks for hardware — has rather tied its hands in that regard. The first post on its machine learning blog offers a small riposte, describing a method of creating synthetic images that can be used to train facial recognition systems. It’s not ground-breaking, but it’s oddly symbolic of what needs to be Apple’s approach to AI. Probably a blog worth following then.

Comments

Maybe Apple could draw AI attention by making Siri not suck.

What do you mean Siri isn’t smart?

Funny.

If I remember correctly, the advice was to exit the dialogue or to say nothing.

Apple, with its philosophy of not snooping on customers — in favor of charging megabucks for hardware

1 – Apple do still collect a data from users, such as location and usage, but not as much as Google and they don’t use it (anymore) to sell ads.

2 – They don’t charge Megabucks in comparison with flagships from Google and Samsung. Roughly in the same field. Their PCs have a bit more of a premium, I suppose, but not that far from what Microsoft charges for Surface devices.

Actually, I agree on both fronts. And I think it is ethical for companies to collect data as long as users clearly understand what it will be used for and to which limits. I would be willing to share more about my utilization and habits if I am assured that it won’t be sold for ads and if it will be anonymized.

it won’t be sold for ads

You are gonna see ads everywhere on the internet whatever products you buy or services you use. Why do you prefer those add to be random and not relevant?

I prefer to mak emy own

Add blocker and pay for good content.

True, Apple’s data collection has nothing to do with selling to the advertisers, it is only to improve the service, there is no conflict of interest.

They use to. But they sucked at it.

That’s a really odd dig.

"They used to target ads through data collection but then stopped because they weren’t good at it."

You focused on the wrong part – they stopped. They aren’t an ad company, I don’t want them to be. There is no benefit to the end user.

I guess Apple finally had to bite the bullet and start this blog/journal to respond to all the naysayers who assume that since Apple doesn’t talk all day every day about "Machine learning" that it’s ignoring it.

In a sense, they sort of are. There is an easy way to fix Siri: Crowd-sourcing.

Create a form where people submit questions they usually ask Siri, and give an equal form for people to answer those questions and let people vote on all responses.

The top 3-4 answers get picked, and get submitted for final review by a Siri developer (in case some jacka** answer somehow makes it to the top), who with one click could then add it or remove it to the next Siri update patch.

Siri could get better and better at answering queries that way, regardless of how complicated the questions get formulated. Is it machine learning? Not really. It’s merely cataloguing all and any question anyone may ever ask in any supported language, but the data base of answers would then provide the opportunity for Apple to at least offer partial fixes to complicated questions until they nail down the self-learning neural-network aspect of AI they hope to develop in Siri.

I hope not.

AI shouldn’t just be a Chinese room.

I think their point is Siri currently is barely more than a search query.

There isn’t a whole lot of AI going on, for most people they just want Siri to be able to search for more questions. This piece could be helped by crowd sourcing.

I agree future AI work should be kept in house.

Totally missing the point of the blog. One of the biggest issues Apple has had in attracting and retaining high quality AI Engineers was the inability to publish findings due to apple’s internal secrecy. It’s been well documented that Apple plays everything very close to the chest when it comes to unreleased tech – especially if it is deemed proprietary – and that has played a big role in attracting top minds in the field. It’s not about attention, it’s about attracting top-tier talent.

Other tech companies regularly publish new and exciting research, which makes headlines and gets researchers excited to work for them.

and

Notably, at the bottom of Apple’s new blog, prominently displayed, is a link to the company’s jobs site, encouraging readers to apply now.

Exactly, you were almost there. This blog has little to do with attention and even less to do with convincing people about Siri – it’s bait for engineers who appreciate and require publishing findings just like every other company does.

is a bit grander than a blog

How so? It’s a blank page with posts that are linked to dates. That’s pretty bloggy to me

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