Is Apple Ready to Contend its Unique Artificial Intelligence Conundrum?

Original article can be found here (source): Artificial Intelligence on Medium

Is Apple Ready to Contend its Unique Artificial Intelligence Conundrum?

It is said that Apple’s company store at Cupertino sells a T-Shirt that says “I visited the Apple campus. But that’s all I’m allowed to say.”

Apple’s post-millennium brand has historically been built on an oath to secrecy. Be it media outlets prowling on iPhone leaks or consumers lining up at 4AM outside Apple stores to buy brand new iPhones, Apple has built its products, brand and consumers by always revealing less and attempting to make a major splash on a launch day.

But things have changed. Since Apple announced one such “path-breaking” innovation with iPhone 4S, when they announced the Artificial Intelligence based Virtual Assistant called Siri, Apple’s competitors started announcing their own variants — those like “Ok Google” and “Alexa” that, over the years, have turned out to be far advanced and capable than Siri.

While organizations like Google and Microsoft have relied heavily on years of scientific research published largely through open forums, peer reviewed papers and journals, open sourced frameworks, Apple — despite being the first in the market with a consumer-ready AI Virtual Assistant — remained eerily quiet for long, thanks to their oath to secrecy.

While Google open sourced Tensorflow, Facebook open sourced PyTorch, Microsoft open sourced CNTK and are commoditizing AI development with Azure ML Services and Cognitive Services, Apple has the iPhone and the Watch and their problem is not only to catch-up with competition but also to figure out how to squeeze everything inside of their tiny products.

Apple realized it and started to have exceptions to their secrecy. Since the early days of Siri, they’ve opened a Machine Learning blog to share their research, started using terms like “Neural Engine” while describing product capabilities and are procuring several small AI startups to strengthen their research. Read Apple’s first ever blog post published on their machine learning blog on July 2017. It ends with a rookie statement,

If you’re a machine learning researcher or student, an engineer or developer, we’d love to hear your questions and feedback. Write us at machine-learning@apple.com

But then, Apple continues to be known more as the iPhone and the Apple Watch company rather than one that innovates through AI research or open sources their AI frameworks.

So there’s the unique AI conundrum for Apple — as they attempt to make their devices become intelligent edges, they now have to do it with research that does not use a lot of consumer data, and to tread the fine-line between partly being secretive and partly being open about their AI research, and yet build products that can compete with the likes of their competitors who’ve invested in decades of open research.