Apple’s Siri Team Reportedly Struggling To Keep Up With AI

With AI and large-language models like ChatGPT very much in the public eye right now, some have taken a look at Siri and wondered why Apple appears to be so far behind.

A new report by The Information appears to explain why.

That paywalled report was picked up by MacRumors and it appears to show that even those inside Apple are wary of Siri’s failings. It’s thought that there are multiple reasons for that, most of them caused by Apple itself.

The extensive paywalled report explains why former Apple employees who worked in the company’s AI and machine learning groups believe that a lack of ambition and organizational dysfunction have hindered ‌Siri‌ and the company’s AI technologies. Apple’s virtual assistant is apparently “widely derided” inside the company for its lack of functionality and minimal improvement over time.

The report goes on to say that a team inside Apple had looked into reworking Siri to make it more lightweight and flexible but that those plans were later scrapped in favor of a different project designed to make Siri more private.

In 2019, the ‌Siri‌ team explored a project to rewrite the virtual assistant from scratch, codenamed “Blackbird.” The effort sought to create a lightweight version of ‌Siri‌ that would delegate the creation of functions to app developers and would run on iPhones instead of the cloud to improve performance and privacy. Demos of Blackbird apparently prompted excitement among Apple employees owing to its utility and responsiveness.

However, Blackbird had its wings clipped before it had a chance to make a difference.

Blackbird competed with the work of two senior leaders on the ‌Siri‌ team who were responsible for helping ‌Siri‌ understand and respond to queries. These individuals pushed for their own project, codenamed “‌Siri‌ X,” for the 10th anniversary of the virtual assistant. The project simply aimed to move ‌Siri‌’s processing on-device for privacy reasons, without the lightweight, modular functionality of Blackbird.

At this point it’s difficult to see where Siri can go from here. Apple seems to be more focused on keeping Siri processing on-device so that it can point to its privacy chops. And with LLM chatbots like ChatGPT unlikely to be able to function that way for a while, Apple looks set to lag behind the competition as a result.

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