Apple customers are known for being fiercely loyal, which includes going to great lengths to defend its practices and products. Despite their devotion, most will still admit that despite loving their iPhone or MacBook, they hate Siri passionately. The company’s voice-based assistant has never been particularly helpful for most people despite existing for over a decade. It’s right up there with iTunes in Apple products that seem to have been forgotten about.
Now it seems Apple might finally be doing something about this. Apple has become the latest of many companies to start toying with adding generative AI to its products, starting with Siri. Word of Cupertino’s plans comes from 9to5Mac, which says the company is currently testing “Siri natural language generation.” It’s enabled in the latest version of its Apple TV operating system, tvOS 16.4 beta. The project is reportedly codenamed Bobcat and will eventually roll out to all of Apple’s operating systems. The report says code exists for this feature on the Mac, iPhone, iPad, and HomePod. In its current form, it appears only to be used for telling jokes with Siri.
News of Apple’s plans is bolstered by a New York Times report from this week that said Apple held its annual AI conference last month to help its engineers understand its AI offerings better. According to the paper, the Siri team was at the event and is also “testing language-generating concepts every week.”
Siri is based on a template database instead of a large language model. A shift to generative language would therefore be massive. Whatever Apple comes up with will not resemble ChatGPT, however. Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, known for his accurate reporting on Apple, recently denied the company was developing a chatbot. Whatever Apple comes up with, it seems to be dipping its toe in the pool for now. This week alone, Google showed off AI in Google Docs and Gmail, Microsoft added ChatGPT to Edge, and Mark Zuckerberg announced Meta was also focusing on AI.
An AI arms race has begun, and Apple stands a good chance of being competitive simply due to its abundant resources. But given the rapid pace at which Google and Microsoft are beginning to include it in their products, Apple is clearly behind. It could be a long time until it ships a product with generative AI.