July 22, 2024

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Apple brings ChatGPT to Siri as it debuts ‘Apple Intelligence’ at WWDC 2024 | Apple

Tim Cook, the Apple CEO, announced a series of generative artificial intelligence products and services on Monday during his keynote speech at the company’s annual developer conference, WWDC, including “Apple Intelligence” and a deal with ChatGPT-maker OpenAI.

The new tools mark a major shift toward AI for Apple, which has seen slowing global sales over the past year and integrated fewer AI features into its consumer-facing products than competitors.

“AI has to understand you and be grounded in your personal context like your routine, your relationships, your communications and more. It’s beyond artificial intelligence. It’s personal intelligence,” said Cook. “Introducing… Apple Intelligence.”

Apple’s new artificial intelligence system involves a range of generative AI tools aimed at creating an automated, personalized experience on its devices. The demonstration showed the company’s AI would be integrated throughout the operating systems on its Mac laptops, iPad tablets and iPhones, as well as be able to pull information from and take action within apps.

The company also confirmed its much-anticipated partnership with OpenAI during the keynote, announcing that Apple would integrate ChatGPT technology into responses from a new version of its voice assistant Siri. Executives promised would feature a “more natural, more contextually relevant and more personal” experience. The new Siri will be able to function as an AI chatbot and receive written instructions, and also has the ability to take actions within apps based on voice prompts. Apple promised that Siri would be able to look through your emails, texts and photos to find specific information based on relevant context.

An Apple executive demonstrated that the company’s AI could, for instance, pick out the word “daughter” from an email and connect it to the matching phone contact. Apple Intelligence also has the ability to summarize notifications, emails and texts. A group chat that involves figuring out trip planning could be shortened to a single message that conveys who booked a hotel and when to arrive, according to the demo. A new image generation tool, meanwhile, allows users to create unique emoji reactions, while the new Image Playground feature can create more complex visuals in several different styles.

The company also announced an updated operating system for its Vision Pro headset. The virtual reality device, which has only been available in the US since its release in February, will become available in China, Japan, Singapore, Australia, Canada, France and the United Kingdom in the next two months.

Apple said it would adopt Rich Communication Services to improve messaging between iPhones and other smartphones as well as expanding customization options for iMessage. Phones running Google’s Android operating system have long employed the messaging protocol. More incremental updates from WWDC included a redesigned photos app, hiking maps in Apple Maps, tweaks to the Wallet app, customization options for texting, and texting via satellite in locations without cell tower connections.

Apple Intelligence: game changer or late to the game?

While the boom in generative AI in recent years has led tech giants such as Google to revamp their core services, Apple had until now held off from incorporating the technology into its flagship products. The company’s lack of generative AI tools has been a consistent source of consternation among analysts and investors over the previous year as they expressed concern that Apple seemed to be playing catch-up in the AI race.

As pressure grew on Apple to provide some form of new AI offering, the company began discussing partnerships and eyeing ways of updating tools like Siri, its voice assistant that debuted in 2011. After Cook promised shareholders last month that Apple was making “significant investments” into artificial intelligence, Bloomberg reported that the company was finalizing a deal with OpenAI to integrate the startup’s technology into its devices.

Apple’s stock has rallied in recent months as investors waited to see what the company would unveil. Apple has struggled this year with weakening global demand for its iPhone, reporting another overall drop in revenue during an earnings call last month. An antitrust lawsuit in the US, a canceled electric vehicle project and a lack of public fanfare for the expensive Vision Pro have additionally dogged the company.

Other tech firms have meanwhile seen their stock market value rise as they emphasized investments into artificial intelligence, with Apple’s rival Microsoft beating analyst’s expectations this year as its revenue and share price grew. The AI chipmaker Nvidia hit a $3tn stock market valuation last week, overtaking Apple to become the world’s second most valuable public company.

Although Apple has been reluctant to debut a marquee AI product, it has been quietly building up its artificial intelligence capabilities and investments for years. It has acquired several AI startups, reallocated employees to work on artificial intelligence and is setting up an AI research lab in Zurich.

Apple’s hesitancy to enter the AI game may have been influenced by a desire to maintain its privacy-focused brand. Because AI relies on collecting large amounts of data to train language learning models, the company’s partnership with OpenAI raised privacy concerns with some critics – including Elon Musk, who stated Apple devices will be “banned from the premises” of his companies over privacy concerns if the ChatGPT integration launches.

However, in a press briefing following the event, Cook told reporters that Apple plans to usher in a “new standard for privacy in AI”. The company will release a paper the same day as the keynote highlighting how it will “apply this technology in a responsible way”, he added. Throughout the demonstration earlier in the day, executives emphasized measures Apple had taken to protect users’ privacy when using company’s AI, such as a dedicated set of servers that would power the features but not store users’ personal information or on-device responses.

In an on-stage discussion, Craig Federighi, senior vice-president of software engineering at Apple, said the company built the majority of the “Apple intelligence” offerings with its own technology and proprietary foundational models. In other words, the ChatGPT partnership extends primarily to search function and enhanced writing tools, while the bulk of AI tools were created by Apple itself. Users will need to opt in explicitly before engaging with external AI models, like those offered by OpenAI.

“For artificial intelligence to be really useful, it has to be centered on you,” said Federighi. “[To make] that possible, it needs to be integrated into the experience all the time – it needs to be informed by context and knowledge of you. And if it’s going to do that, there’s a lot of responsibility to protect your privacy.”

Other privacy measures from Apple include a new hybrid cloud system called “private cloud compute”. The company said it aims to complete the majority of processing for AI tools on-device, but will provide additional privacy measures for more complex computing that requires the cloud.

Despite these assurances, the pressure on Apple to deliver AI-powered services means the company has had to make some “tough decisions” surrounding its “long-held focus on privacy and security”, said Ben Wood, chief analyst and CMO at CCS Insight.

“Implementing a cloud-based AI solution is a fascinating tension which sees Apple arriving at the same conclusion as rivals such as Google – that it is not possible to fully run today’s AI features on-device, and those elements must be outsourced to the cloud,” he said. “Apple will try to play up its security credentials, but this marks a shift in approach nonetheless.”