Apple hires former Google AI chief, probably wants to make Siri smarter

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Apple has hired Google's chief of search and artificial intelligence to lead its machine learning and AI efforts.

In his work heading up Apple's machine learning and AI strategy, Giannandrea will influence products like Core ML for iOS app developers and the dedicated AI chip reportedly under development, as well as the struggling Siri assistant. A report last month from The Information discussed myriad internal and management problems that have plagued development of Siri and partly explain why it has fallen behind Google Assistant and Alexa. That role was once held by Apple, whose Siri technology introduced the feature to many, but which failed to capitalise on the lead. John Giannandrea is now officially part of Apple's team and his main goal is to help Apple improve Siri. Apple's new iOS and WatchOS added more Siri functions, and the new HomePod home speaker is run nearly entirely through Siri.

As initially reported by The New York Times, Google's John Giannandrea will be joining Apple one day after he stepped down from his previous role.

Keeping in good company, Giannandrea - at least on LinkedIn - is connected to William Tunstall-Pedoe, a British software developer who invented Evi, one of the first virtual assistants for mobile phones.

The 53-year-old Scotsman is a machine learning expert who joined Google in 2010 when the search giant acquired a startup called Metaweb, where he was chief technology officer. "It should be a powerful tool to help us think better, and I think that is really the journey we are on", Giannandrea said then.

Interestingly, Apple's less than impressive progress in AI can be considered to be the result of its own data collection and privacy policies.

Looking back at Apple's history related to AI, it is curious to point out that the company never allowed any of its employees to publish research in AI.

Jeff Dean, co-founder of leading AI research lab Google Brain, will now be in charge of Google's AI team.

Many people were surprised when news broke that Giannandrea had left his post as Google's AI chief, but the decision makes sense now that we know he was intending to join Apple.