Apple is reportedly joining the AI rat race. According to a report from Bloomberg's Apple whisperer, Mark Gurman, the Mac and iPhone builder is working on an artificial intelligence framework and its own chatbot.
Gurman's anonymous sources detail a key piece of technology, dubbed "Ajax," which serves as a foundation for building large language models like those that power ChatGPT. Using Ajax, a small engineering team at Apple also built a chatbot that some internally are allegedly calling "Apple GPT." Ajax was reportedly developed in 2022 to "unify machine learning development at Apple," while the chatbot in use with internal teams seems to be a more recent development. Ajax is built on Google Jax and runs on Google Cloud, Bloomberg reports.
Apple has been noticeably silent on artificial intelligence. The company didn't refer to AI at all at its Worldwide Developers Conference, instead referring to advancements in machine learning. Many users have noted that Siri, Apple's voice assistant first released in 2011, isn't as advanced as competitors like Amazon Alexa or the Google Assistant.
Bloomberg's report paints Apple as being uneasy about how fast generative AI tools have grown into the mainstream and is worried "about missing a potentially paramount shift in how devices operate." Apple's head of machine learning and AI, John Giannandera, and the senior vice president of software engineering, Craig Federighi, are leading the charge.
Apple Maps, search and Siri have seen some AI improvements based on Ajax already, Gurman reports. The question about the so-called "Apple GPT" (definitely not a final name) is in what way it could potentially show up in consumer projects.
Right now, that chatbot, which is only available through a web interface, is just being used internally by a small team, and apparently requires employees need to be rubber-stamped by the higher ups to get access. Additionally, Apple isn't allowing output from the bot to be used for projects that will be consumer-facing. However, Apple employees apparently are using it for prototyping, summarizing text and responding to questions.
What Apple's bot doesn't do, yet, is anything new, according to Gurman's sources. It's similar to Bing Chat, ChatGPT and their ilk, but doesn't have any differentiators.
It's unclear where Apple will use this AI tech in consumer-facing work, if at all. Gurman notes that Siri is the obvious choice, though Apple has pointed out that AI has ended up in areas like crash detection and fall detection. But Siri, with a focus on privacy, hasn't been able to surpass its predecessors. Smartening it up with AI may make it a bit more helpful.
Apple appears to be taking AI slower than others companies, like OpenAI, Microsoft, and Google, which are largely testing with open betas. That matches Apple's approach in many product categories, in which it waits for them to mature before swooping in with a refined product.
CEO Tim Cook himself has tried ChatGPT, but also warned about the issue for bias and misinformation. It will be interesting to see how Apple tackles those issues.