Will Apple pull off a surprise, make an AI statement at WWDC 2023? | Opinion

Will Apple pull off a surprise, make an AI statement at WWDC 2023?

Apple hasn’t been quite vocal about its AI plans, but the fact that the tech giant has been seeking talent in AI

| Updated on: Jun 02 2023, 13:33 IST
WWDC 2023: 15-inch MacBook Air coming! Wonder tech or not? Check likely specs
1/6 According to Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, WWDC 2023 could see the launch of a new 15-inch MacBook Air, alongside other launches. This means that Apple could announce a 15-inch addition to its range of one of its best-selling laptops this year. (Unsplash)
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2/6 The 15-inch MacBook Air will join the MacBook lineup and will be placed between the 13.6-inch MacBook Air and the 16-inch MacBook Pro. According to Gurman, the new MacBook Air could have the same internals as the 13-inch version, apart from a bigger 15.2-inch display. Disappointed?  (Unsplash)
3/6 The new MacBook Air is expected to get the Apple M2 chip under the hood, instead of the M3 chip, which Apple could be keeping reserved for next year’s MacBooks, as per the reports. Therefore, it is not likely to get the M3 chipset for now. Definitely a bummer! (Unsplash)
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4/6 That the gadget is actually coming is clear from the fact that, apart from Gurman, several other Apple analysts such as Ming-Chi Kuo and Ross Young have also hinted about the MacBook Air launch. (HT Tech)
5/6 Moreover, the 15-inch MacBook Air could get a 1080p webcam, improved speakers, MagSafe charging, and a function key row. It could give consumers an option for a larger but more affordable MacBook for those who prefer a bigger display but cannot afford the pricey MacBook Pro. Finally, some relief! (Apple)
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6/6 It should be noted that all the details about the rumoured 15-inch MacBook Air are based on unofficial reports, and thus should be taken with a grain of salt. Only the official announcement from Apple will reveal actual details about the device, which is expected to at the WWDC 2023 starting from June 5. (HT Tech)
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Apple's commitment to privacy has been a defining characteristic of its approach to AI. (Unsplash)

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a chief priority for the world's largest technology firms, with industry-changing announcements like the launch of OpenAI's ChatGPT and Google's Bard chatbot sending shockwaves across the tech sector.

With Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC2023) around the corner, rumors surrounding potential announcements related to their AI strategy are making their way along the grapevine.

Apple has long been a player in the AI arena, with the introduction of Siri, its voice-activated virtual assistant, in 2011. However, recent announcements and strategic investments made by the Cupertino-based giant indicate that the company is ready to take AI to the next level, and compete with others like Microsoft (which invested heavily in OpenAI) and Google. The question is, will we learn about any of Apple's AI plans at next week's WWDC 2023?

Apple's AI Talent Drive

Apple hasn't been quite vocal about its AI plans, but the fact that the tech giant has been seeking talent in AI hasn't escaped the attention of the media. The buzz is that Apple is hiring some 180 people with AI and machine learning knowledge for its products Siri, iOS, macOS and other products in the United States, according to Pocket-lint.

Apple's career page indicated the company is searching for Generative AI talent, particularly for machine learning specialists “passionate about building extraordinary autonomous systems.” And the postings appeared in the month of April and May, not too far from the WWDC2023.

Super Siri?

It's well known that one of Apple's key focuses is on enhancing the capabilities of Siri, but lately with OpenAI's ChatGPT topping the AI race, Apple's virtual assistant has been receding into the background. A glance at Twitter shows fans are expecting ChatGPT-like prowess with Siri and expectations have built up for WWDC2023.

While Apple has invested heavily in natural language processing and machine learning techniques, Siri is far from a suave, swanky chatbot that consumers expect today. As John Burkey, an Apple engineer, who worked on Siri in 2014 told The New York Times, Siri is built on "clunky code that took weeks to update with basic features."

These expectations may not be unfounded since efforts are being seen in the Apple wagon. In March, at Apple's annual AI summit, the company's personnel received a briefing on the tech giant's large language model and other AI tools. Also, with the pressure from ChatGPT's success mounting, the Siri team have reportedly been testing language-generation concepts "every week."

A Privacy-Conscious Chatbot

Furthermore, Apple's commitment to privacy has been a defining characteristic of its approach to AI. In addition, with data leakage in mind, Apple has been restricting its employees from ChatGPT usage, triggering rumours that the company might be building its own AI system like Samsung.

While ChatGPT fans are starry eyed at the moment, if Apple comes up with a chatbot with a foolproof privacy plan, the direction of fan tide could change dramatically. And what better venue than the WWDC to floor those fans?

More Buzz

At last year's WWDC, Apple deployed transformers on its Neural Engine, an AI-specific chip designed to accelerate machine learning tasks. The company announced about making available an open-source reference PyTorch implementation of the Transformer architecture, giving global developers a way to deploy their Transformer models on Apple devices, specifically optimized for the Engine. This year, experts are saying that it will be interesting to see how much the tech giant leverages the power of its Neural Engine.

Also, Bloomberg reported last month that Apple has been working on a paid AI-powered health coach to assist users in exercise, sleep, and eating habits. The service named “Quartz,” will seemingly “use AI and data from an Apple Watch to make suggestions and create coaching programs tailored to specific users.” However, whether Quartz will make an appearance at the WWDC this year is not known.

Acquiring AI for Years

Over the years, Apple's AI acquisitions have been quiet but steady. Acquiring companies like Turi, Xnor.ai, and Voysis, among others, Apple has bolstered its talent pool and technology portfolio in areas such as machine learning, computer vision, and speech recognition.

It was back in 2018 that Apple acquired Silk Labs, an AI startup that focuses on making AI software for small hardware such as cameras and speakers. Similarly, in 2019, Apple acquired Lighthouse AI, a company that builds AI-powered home cameras, an area where we can expect Apple to inject AI and showcase at the WWDC2023.

Whether this means we can expect AI infusion in Apple's consumer hardware or not, remains to be seen. Silk is said to share Apple's focus of a privacy-forward AI experience, which gives us hope in current times when AI is everywhere, and Apple hasn't made any noise yet.

Apple is enjoying a fair share of the consumer technology pie. Its recently opened stores in India are earning to the tune of INR 25 crore a month each. However, when it comes to AI, too many things have happened since the last WWDC.

With its unique blend of hardware, software, and services, Apple does have the potential to offer an integrated AI experience that seamlessly connects users across multiple devices. The fact that the company puts user privacy at the forefront could be the differentiator that elevates the company amongst its competitors. While the tech giant definitely has plans in this area, whether they are revealed at the WWDC remains to be seen.

By Navanwita Sachdev, The Tech Panda

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First Published Date: 02 Jun, 08:52 IST