Does Apple plan a robot army to combat the Android horde?

Apple's plans for A.I. involve self-learning, autonomous machines

Apple, Artificial intelligence, Siri, Proactive, OS, iOS, Apple Car

To which we could add: "and make a dent in the universe."

Credit: Laurence Simon

Give me convenience

When it comes to offering the benefits of digital transformation while keeping our private lives private, Apple has once again put its money where its mouth is with the acquisition of A.I. firm, Perceptio.

What’s interesting about Perceptio is that it develops ways artificial intelligence systems (such as Siri) can run on a smartphone with little reliance on the cloud. This means less data about you, your phone, location or what you are searching for is shared online. “That fits Apple’s strategy of trying to minimize its usage of customer data and do as much processing as possible on the device,” according to a Bloomberg report.

Perceptio uses deep machine learning, the kind of technology you’ll find in A.I. systems like Watson. These technologies aim to help machines determine patterns from surrounding events and learn on their own. This has obvious implications for Siri’s Proactive feature in this.

In control

Why this matters is that the purchase underlines Apple’s focus on (as Apple’s software engineering chief, Craig Federighi has explained it) "adding intelligence throughout the user experience in a way that enhances how you use your device, but without compromising your privacy, things like improving the apps that you use most."

Where we may see these technologies come into play is in future OS and product design decisions. Apple is attempting to create truly intelligent self-learning machines that do not require any sacrifice of customer privacy in order to deliver the benefits of A.I.

You could observe that in science fiction, where android machines tend to lack on-board intelligence and be centrally controlled, Apple’s plans for A.I. involve the creation of self-learning, truly autonomous machines.

When your smartphone can figure out what you need using the resources it already has available, it never needs to turn to cloud-based intelligence to fetch the answers you seek. Your needs, and your world, remain in your control.

"They want to make a phone that responds to you very quickly without knowledge of the rest of the world," said Joseph Gonzalez, co-founder of a machine learning startup. "It's harder to do that."

Platform approach

This is only part of a multi-pronged attempt to add A.I. to Apple systems. Apple last week purchased UK startup VocalIQ, a company that specializes in speech processing and machine learning technology. That means natural language controls.

Apple has been investing in the building blocks for its attempts for some time, beginning with its recruitment of Yale robotics expert John Morrell in 2012. As well as artificial intelligence, Morrell has strong connections to Segway and is thought to be part of the growing team allegedly developing the mythical Apple vehicle.

Apple’s move to explore artificial intelligence is becoming more widely known this year. Recently, a flurry of new roles involving research in A.I. and search have passed across the Apple recruitment website (Reuters confirms the hiring of dozens of A.I. experts in the last few months), and the company purchased augmented reality firm Metaio in May.

Patent opportunity

There’s lots of potential for future products, from a voice activated ring capable of making and receiving alerts, notifications and communications to an Apple Car capable of intuitively understanding when you finish shopping and driving out to pick you up. All these things are possible as A.I. becomes more flexible.

However, as our entire existences become increasingly connected, the link between civil liberties and individual privacy is becoming ever more tangible, which is why Apple’s award-winning attempt deserves support.

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