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Apple using machine learning for almost everything, and privacy-first approach actually better

Apple using machine learning in every product

Apple’s artificial intelligence (AI) chief says that Apple is using machine learning in almost every aspect of how we interact with our devices, but there is much more to come.

John Giannandrea says he moved from Google to Apple because the potential of machine learning (ML) to impact people’s lives is so much greater at the Cupertino company …

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Macworld speculates that Apple bought Xnor.ai to make Siri smarter

A recent acquisition could help Apple make Siri smarter

While Xnor.ai was best known for its ability to detect people in smart camera feeds, Macworld suggests that Apple’s main motivation for buying the company may have been to make Siri smarter.

The most obvious reason for Apple’s acquisition of Xnor.ai was to improve people detection in HomeKit Secure Video. But as we noted at the time, the company’s tech has broader applications …



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Mayo Clinic sees big success with AI detecting weak heart pumps via ECGs, could work with Apple Watch in the future

In an interview with CNBC today, the Mayo Clinic’s chair of cardiovascular medicine, Dr. Paul Friedman shared that they have seen promising results using AI to detect an often symptom-less heart defect. It’s called asymptomatic left ventricular dysfunction, which means a weak heart pump. In Mayo Clinic’s studies, they are using AI to read ECGs and finding impressive results identifying weak heart pumps and even predicting individuals who will be at risk in the future.



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Google makes its TensorFlow artificial intelligence platform available on iOS

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Google this week has published a new version of its TensorFlow machine learning software that adds support for iOS. Google initially teased that it was working on iOS support for TensorFlow last November, but said it was unable to give a timeline. An early version of TensorFlow version 0.9 was released yesterday on GitHub, however, and it brings iOS support.



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Opinion: Viv is exactly what Siri should have been by now

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As long-time readers will know, I’ve long been a fan of Siri. As I’ve often noted, it’s my primary means of interacting with my iPhone (part of the reason I don’t need a larger screen). I dictate most of my messages, and if it’s possible to ask Siri to do something for me rather than doing it myself, I do.

But Siri does have one major failing: it has no access to third-party apps. There are countless apps where I’d love to be able to get Siri to do the heavy lifting, as I wrote last year in a Feature Request:

What I can’t yet do is ask the time of my next train home, despite having an app on my phone that can answer that question. I can’t ask it to show me today’s Timehop, nor can I ask it to post that to Facebook. I can’t ask it to post something to a Hipchat or Slack chatroom. I can’t ask it to call an Uber car. I can’t ask it to translate ‘Where is the nearest pharmacy’ into Mandarin. I could name many other examples, but you get the idea.

If Apple offered an API to allow third-party developers to take advantage of Siri, I’m confident that many would do so. And I’m certainly not alone in wanting that – in our poll, 95% of you agreed with me.

But it turns out that Siri’s original developers wanted to take things a step further …



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Siri beats out Google Now and Cortana in survey, with 81% user satisfaction rating

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A survey in which Siri, Google Now and Cortana users were asked to rate their satisfaction with their respective intelligent assistants found that Siri got the highest scores, with 81% of users declaring themselves satisfied compared to 68% for Google Now and just 57% for Cortana.

Survey participants were also asked to try out seven different requests and report on how well their service performed, as well as to note how many times they were asked follow-up questions. Siri had the lowest percentage of incorrect answers, and also asked fewer follow-up questions before it was able to carry out the task or answer the question.

Siri is definitely a feature that polarises users – some (like me) extremely satisfied with it, while I know others who report getting better results with Google Now. Microsoft is allowing a small number of iOS users to try out a beta version of Cortana for the iPhone.

Siri got the highest satisfaction score for setting an appointment, and the lowest for the question ‘When does Kung Fu Panda 3 come out?’.

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You can see full details at the Experts Exchange site.

Siri’s latest trick is speaking Arabic, following the Apple Store openings in the UAE.

Apple’s artificial intelligence work is being hurt by its extreme secrecy, say AI academics

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Apple’s famed obsession with secrecy in its product development process is hampering its work in the field of artificial intelligence, say academics working in the field. Bloomberg reports that AI experts believe that lack of two-way sharing of information slows development.

“Apple is off the scale in terms of secrecy,” says Richard Zemel, a professor in the computer science department at the University of Toronto. “They’re completely out of the loop.”

Apple Maps was cited as an example of what can go wrong when AI teams within Apple are cut off from other work being done in the field – and even from researchers in other teams within Apple. Worse, it is claimed, the approach makes it impossible for Apple to recruit the brightest people in the field …



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Google’s Eric Schmidt makes thinly-veiled attack on Apple Music as elitist and a decade out of date

Eric Schmidt (Reuters)

Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google parent company Alphabet, has made a thinly-veiled attack on Apple Music in a BBC op-ed on artificial intelligence. He described human-curated music selections as a decade out of data and an elitist approach.

A decade ago, to launch a digital music service, you probably would have enlisted a handful of elite tastemakers to pick the hottest new music.

Today, you’re much better off building a smart system that can learn from the real world – what actual listeners are most likely to like next – and help you predict who and where the next Adele might be … 



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Apple is upping its AI game but can it become as smart as Google without tracking us?

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Reuters reports that Apple is working on significantly increasing the number of artificial intelligence specialists it employs as it works to make Siri smarter, but that the company’s commitment to user privacy imposes constraints.

As part of its push, the company is currently trying to hire at least 86 more employees with expertise in the branch of artificial intelligence known as machine learning, according to a recent analysis of Apple job postings. The company has also stepped up its courtship of machine-learning PhD’s, joining Google, Amazon, Facebook and others in a fierce contest, leading academics say.

Machine learning relies heavily on large-scale data-crunching to figure out what users are likely to want to know. But while Google analyses the data of Android users en-masse, Apple’s approach to privacy means that far less data is sent from the iPhone to its servers, making it more challenging to increase Siri’s intelligence … 

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Wolfram, creator of Siri’s knowledge base, releases impressive new Image Identification tech

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Wolfram Research, the company behind the Wolfram Alpha knowledge base that Apple’s Siri taps into, is today releasing new artificial intelligence tech to answer the question, “What is this a picture of?”

Wolfram is showing off what the Wolfram Language Image Identification Project is capable of using this web app accessible on desktop and mobile devices. You simply drag any photo into the app and the image identification AI attempts to detect what it is (as pictured above).

Now I’m excited to be able to say that we’ve reached a milestone: there’s finally a function called ImageIdentify built into the Wolfram Language that lets you ask, “What is this a picture of?”—and get an answer…. It’s a nice practical example of artificial intelligence. But to me what’s more important is that we’ve reached the point where we can integrate this kind of “AI operation” right into the Wolfram Language—to use as a new, powerful building block for knowledge-based programming.

And the new ImageIdentify function will be accessible to developers to create APIs or apps that tap into the feature through Wolfram Language“And if one had lots of photographs, one could immediately write a Wolfram Language program that, for example, gave statistics on the different kinds of animals, or planes, or devices, or whatever, that appear in the photographs.”

Wolfram has a lengthy, interesting read on the backstory of the project and more about how everything works behind the scenes.

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“What a backstabber,” jokes Scarlett Johansson, after Siri diss

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Scarlett Johansson, who plays a Siri-like virtual assistant in the movie Her, jokingly hit back at Siri’s dismissive remarks in an interview with Vanity Fair. The magazine noted that when Siri was asked “Are you Her?”, it responds with a variety of snarky remarks, including “Her portrayal of artificial intelligence is beyond artificial.”

“Oh. My. God,” Johansson responded, playfully hurt. “I feel like I’ve been betrayed. The other day I asked Siri how I looked and she said, ‘You’re the fairest of them all.’ So she’s obviously playing both sides … What a backstabber, man.”

We’re just waiting for Vanity Fair to interview Siri, to get her take on Johansson’s remarks …

Anki Drive iOS app updated with new car upgrades, customization options

Anki Drive got the ultimate endorsement last summer when Apple allowed the company to demonstrate its product on stage at its WWDC conference. For those unfamiliar, Anki Drive is a platform that allows hardware cars to be raced around a track and controlled wirelessly with an iOS device. Today, the company updated its iOS app with a host of new features, upgrades, and customization options. With today’s update, players can now take advantage of 20 new upgrade options, in addition to be able to further customize their car.



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Unveiled at WWDC, Anki Drive goes on sale Oct. 23 for $200 (Update: It’s live)

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Update: Anki Drive is now available on the Apple Online Store for $199  annnnnd iFixit is tearing it down.

As we noted earlier this month, the Anki Drive iPhone-controlled cars demoed at WWDC this year will hit store shelves next week. The cars use a set of onboard sensors and AI software to steer themselves around the track and interact with one another while following behavioral paramaters set in the iOS app. The app also allows you to add upgrades to your car to change how it behaves and how other cars react to it.

The starter set will come with two cars and a track to race them on, and will cost $199. Additional cars will be available for $69 each. The app used to control the cars has been available in the iTunes Store for some time now, but has yet to be updated with the ability to actually use it with the cars. The whole lineup will be available in Apple Stores nationwide on October 23rd.

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Real Racing 3 iOS app updated w/ Ferraris, HUD customization, new tracks & challenges

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EA’s popular Real Racing 3 app for iOS gets a nice update today that introduces Ferraris into the game for the first time. On top of new cars from Ferrari including the FF, the 458 Italia, and the V12-powered F12berlinetta, version 1.40 also brings new tracks, time trial challenges, and the ability to customize the HUD.

EA is including the Circuit de Catalunya track from Spain in the latest update, and also says AI improvements offer ” better collision avoidance and faster times through the first corner.”

A full list of what’s new in the update is below:

What’s New in Version 1.4.0

Real Racing 3’s garage is bolstered by the introduction of highly requested cars from iconic Italian manufacturer, Ferrari.

• New Cars – for the first time in Real Racing, get behind the wheel of magnificent Ferrari vehicles: the FF, the 458 Italia, and the V12-powered F12berlinetta
• New Track – experience the sweeping turns and blistering straights of Spain’s famous Circuit de Catalunya
• Time Trial Ghost Challenges – learn from the best, compete with Friends and start new racing rivalries
• Meet The Crew – hire Crew Members to earn R$, Fame, and Servicing bonuses
• AI Improvements – better collision avoidance and faster times through the first corner
• HUD Customisation – tweak new settings to personalise your racing experience
• Lap and Sector Times – precise performance comparison
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Endorsed by Tim Cook at WWDC, Anki Drive likely to launch this month

With Apple CEO Tim Cook’s endorsement, Anki, a company with artificial intelligence and robots-based products, debuted Anki Drive at WWDC earlier this year. Anki Drive is a car game for iOS that connects to physical cars. The app is currently available via the App Store while the cars and mat system will be available via retail channels…



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Siri leaks her own upcoming ability to speak Japanese

Siri is many things, but it seems she is not a good secret keeper. A few tipsters reached out and told us that Siri now speaks Japanese. Rumors earlier this month said Apple’s AI speech recognition interface would gain Mandarin Chinese, Japanese, and possibly Russian. It now appears that Japanese is about to be announced, perhaps at the iPad 3 announcement next month. There is no word yet on Chinese or Russian, but those are also likely coming soon.

When Siri was announced in October, Apple said that that additional languages would follow this year.  Apple’s Siri FAQ says that she will support Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Italian, and Spanish in 2012:

Language Support and Availability

Siri works exclusively on iPhone 4S. Siri understands and can speak the following languages:

  • English (United States, United Kingdom, Australia)
  • French (France)
  • German (Germany)

In 2012, Siri will support additional languages, including Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Italian, and Spanish.

Can I use Siri in any of these languages in other countries?

Yes. Siri can be enabled in any country, and you can choose to speak to it in English, French, or German. However, Siri is designed to recognize the specific accents and dialects of the supported countries listed above. Since every language has its own accents and dialects, the accuracy rate will be higher for native speakers.

Thanks Alex, AR and D.



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Siri demos are making the rounds. Is this going to ‘Change the world’?

When we interviewed Siri co-founder Norman Winarsky in the week before the Siri announcement, he said that Apple’s foray into ‘mainstreaming the Virtual Personal Assistant’ would be the next step in human interfaces. Keyboard, Mouse, Touch Screen, and now Voice. A World-Changing event.

Make no mistake: Apple’s ‘mainstreaming’ Artificial Intelligence in the form of a Virtual Personal Assistant is a groundbreaking event. I’d go so far as to say it is a World-Changing event. Right now a few people dabble in partial AI enabled apps like Google Voice Actions, Vlingo or Nuance Go. Siri was many iterations ahead of these technologies, or at least it was two years ago. This is REAL AI with REAL market use. If the rumors are true, Apple will enable millions upon millions of people to interact with machines with natural language. The PAL will get things done and this is only the tip of the iceberg. We’re talking another technology revolution. A new computing paradigm shift.

With some customers getting their hands on their iPhone 4S early, there are some early Siri walkthroughs hitting the net, below:



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Co-Founder of Siri: Assistant launch is a “World-Changing Event” (Interview)

On Tuesday, Apple will change the way humans interact with electronic devices. All over again.

Perhaps the biggest announcement at Apple’s iPhone event on Tuesday will be Assistant, Apple’s evolution of the Siri Personal Assistant Software. Siri, you’ll remember, is the company Apple picked up for a rumored $200 million in April of last year for, in Steve Jobs’ words, its “Artificial Intelligence”, not search or speech recognition.

During Siri’s brief two months on its own, it described itself as a ‘VPA’:

Virtual Personal Assistants (VPAs) represent the next generation interaction paradigm for the Internet. In today’s paradigm, we follow links on search results. With a VPA, we interact by having a conversation. We tell the assistant what we want to do, and it applies multiple services and information sources to help accomplish our task. Like a real assistant, a VPA is personal; it uses information about an individual’s preferences and interaction history to help solve specific tasks, and it gets better with experience.

Apple has long wanted to bring an Artificial Intelligence-based Personal Assistant to the masses. In the late 80’s, Apple made the Knowledge Navigator series of videos (example below) to showcase this ambition.

In the video, the professor mentions that someone wrote an article 5 years ago trashing Jill’s research (watch from 1:25 min onwards, at 1:50 min he mentions more details) – The computer says the doctor’s name and says his article in 2006 – which means the professor is in 2011. Ha! Thanks PBHK!

The world has come a long way since then, but as you’ll see on Tuesday, Apple had remarkable foresight way back in 1987.

We had the chance to speak to Siri’s co-founder and board member, Norman Winarsky…



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