Apple Purchases Machine Learning Startup Laserlike

Apple last year acquired Laserlike, a machine learning startup located in Silicon Valley, reports The Information. Apple's purchase of the four-year-old company was confirmed by an Apple spokesperson with a standard acquisition statement: "Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans."

Laserlike's website says that its core mission is to deliver "high quality information and diverse perspectives on any topic from the entire web to you."


The company built a search app that used discovery and personalization machine learning techniques to build a Laserlike app described as an "interest search engine" that provided news, web, video, and local content relevant to each user. The Laserlike app is no longer available following the acquisition, but the company's website continues to cover what it was focused on:
We live in a world of information abundance, where the main problem is sifting through the noise and discovering the stuff you actually care about. For instance, if you care about knowing when the next SpaceX livestream launch is because you like to watch it with your kids, or if the car you bought two years ago has had a recall, or if a company you're interested in announces it's opening a new office where you live, or if there's a music festival coming to your town, you don't know when to look for these things, and there's no product that informs you automatically.

This is one of the things we want to fix on the Internet. Laserlike's core mission is to deliver high quality information and diverse perspectives on any topic from the entire web. We are passionate about helping people follow their interests and engage with new perspectives.
The Information suggests that Apple will use the Laserlike acquisition to strengthen its artificial intelligence efforts, including Siri. The Laserlike team has joined the Apple AI group led by new Apple AI chief John Giannandrea, who came to Apple from Google last year.

Giannandrea has been tasked with improving Apple's machine learning initiatives and bolstering Siri, the company's voice assistant. Laserlike's technology could potentially allow Siri to learn more about Apple users to provide more tailored, personalized content.


This article, "Apple Purchases Machine Learning Startup Laserlike" first appeared on MacRumors.com

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Apple AI Chief John Giannandrea Gets Promotion to Senior Vice President

Apple today announced John Giannandrea, who handles machine learning and AI for the company, has been promoted to the Apple's executive team and is now listed on the Apple Leadership page as a senior vice president.

Giannandrea joined Apple as its chief of machine learning and AI strategy in April 2018, stealing him away from Google where he ran Google's search and artificial intelligence unit.


At the time, Apple said Giannandrea would lead the company's AI and machine learning teams, reporting directly to Apple CEO Tim Cook. Giannandrea took over leadership of Siri and combined Apple's Siri and Core ML teams.

According to Apple's press release announcing the promotion, Giannandrea's team has focused on advancing and tightly integrating machine learning into Apple products, leading to more personal, intelligent, and natural interactions for customers while also protecting user privacy.

Apple CEO Tim Cook says that the company is "fortunate" to have Giannandrea at the helm of its AI and machine learning efforts.
"John hit the ground running at Apple and we are thrilled to have him as part of our executive team," said Tim Cook, Apple's CEO. "Machine learning and AI are important to Apple's future as they are fundamentally changing the way people interact with technology, and already helping our customers live better lives. We're fortunate to have John, a leader in the AI industry, driving our efforts in this critical area."
Prior to joining Apple, Giannandrea spent eight years at Google, and in the time before that, he founded two companies, Tellme Networks and Metaweb Technologies.

Giannandrea's April hiring came amid ongoing criticism of Siri, which many have criticized for its shortcomings in comparison to AI offerings from companies like Microsoft, Amazon, and Google. Apple made serious strides improving Siri in 2018, building out the capabilities of the AI assistant with features like Siri Shortcuts in iOS 12.


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Apple Updates Leadership Page to Include New AI Chief John Giannandrea

Apple today updated its Apple Leadership page to include John Giannandrea, who now serves as Apple's Chief of Machine Learning and AI Strategy.

Apple hired Giannandrea back in April, stealing him away from Google where he ran the search and artificial intelligence unit.


Giannandrea is leading Apple's AI and machine learning teams, reporting directly to Apple CEO Tim Cook. He has taken over leadership of Siri, which was previously overseen by software engineering chief Craig Federighi.

Apple told TechCrunch that it is combining its Core ML and Siri teams under Giannandrea. The structure of the two teams will remain intact, but both will now answer to Giannandrea.

Under his leadership, Apple will continue to build its AI/ML teams, says TechCrunch, focusing on general computation in the cloud alongside data-sensitive on-device computations.

Giannandrea spent eight years at Google before joining Apple, and before that, he founded Tellme Networks and Metaweb Technologies.

Apple's hiring of Giannandrea in April came amid ongoing criticism of Siri, which many have claimed has serious shortcomings in comparison to AI offerings from companies like Microsoft, Amazon, and Google due to Apple's focus on privacy.

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In 2018, Apple is improving Siri through a new Siri Shortcuts feature that's coming in iOS 12, which is designed to let users create multi-step tasks using both first and third-party apps that can be activated through Siri.


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Apple Expands Its Machine Learning Hub in Downtown Seattle

Apple has expanded its office space at Two Union Square, a 56-story office tower in Downtown Seattle, according to GeekWire.


The report claims Apple will soon occupy five floors inside the skyscraper, up from a floor-and-a-half of space it originally leased, based on permits filed with the city and the publication's own visits to the building.

The expansion gives Apple more than 70,000 square feet of space, enough for potentially close to 500 people, the report adds.

Last year, Apple confirmed that its Seattle engineering hub is focused on artificial intelligence and machine learning, technologies that power the likes of Siri and advanced facial recognition on the iPhone X.

Apple's jobs website lists 19 open positions in its Seattle office in a variety of fields, including artificial intelligence, machine learning, smart home automation, cloud computing, and natural language processing.

Apple's senior director of artificial intelligence and machine learning Carlos Guestrin back in February 2017:
We're trying to find the best people who are excited about AI and machine learning — excited about research and thinking long term but also bringing those ideas into products that impact and delight our customers. The bar is high, but we're going to be hiring as quickly as we can find people that meet our high bar, which is exciting.
Seattle has become a hotbed for technology companies because of its talent pool and lower cost of living compared with the San Francisco area, with Amazon, Facebook, and Google among the tech giants with offices in the region.

Last year, Apple became a member of the Partnership on AI, a non-profit organization established "to study and formulate best practices, to advance the public's understanding of AI, and to serve as an open platform for discussion and engagement about AI and its influences on people and society."

Apple recently hired John Giannandrea, the former head of Google's search and artificial intelligence division. Apple's Machine Learning Journal documents the company's efforts in the artificial intelligence area.


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Apple Hires Google’s Chief of Search and Artificial Intelligence

Apple has snapped up John Giannandrea, who today stepped down from his position as the head of Google's search and artificial intelligence unit, reports The New York Times.

According to Apple, Giannandrea will run Apple's overall "machine learning and A.I. strategy," reporting directly to Apple CEO Tim Cook.

In an email sent out to employees and obtained by The New York Times, Cook had high praise for Giannandrea. "John shares our commitment to privacy and our thoughtful approach as we make computers even smarter and more personal," he said. "Our technology must be infused with the values we all hold dear."

Giannandrea's hiring comes as Apple has recently faced criticism for Siri, the AI-based personal assistant built into products like Macs, iPhones, iPads, the Apple TV, and the HomePod. Many believe Siri has serious shortcomings in comparison to AI offerings from other companies like Microsoft, Amazon, and Google due to Apple's heavy focus on privacy.

The Information, for example, recently shared an in-depth look at Siri and how it has become a "major problem" for the company due to rushed development and poor communication between teams.

At Google, Giannandrea, a senior vice president, was involved in the push to integrate artificial intelligence throughout Google products, including internet search, Gmail, and Google Assistant.

Prior to joining Apple, Giannandrea spent 10 years at Google, joining the company following Google's acquisition of Metaweb, a startup where he worked as a chief technology officer.

In recent years, Apple has been bolstering its artificial intelligence team. In 2016, the company hired Carnegie Mellon researcher Russ Salakhutdinov to lead a team focused on artificial intelligence, and in October, Apple acqui-hired the team from Init.ai, a customer service startup focused on creating AI with natural language processing and machine learning to analyze chat-based conversations between humans.

There has also been an uptick in the number of positions Apple has recently offered on its job website that mention the term "Siri," suggesting a ramp up in AI hires.


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Industry Group Representing Apple and Google Releases AI Policy Principles

The Information Technology Industry Council (ITI), an industry group that represents several tech companies like Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook, this week released Artificial Intelligence Policy Principles [PDF] covering responsible and ethical artificial intelligence development.


"We recognize our responsibility to integrate principles into the design of AI technologies, beyond compliance with existing laws," reads the document. AI researchers and stakeholders should "spend a great deal of time" working to ensure the "responsible design and deployment of AI systems." Some of the specific policies addressed are outlined below:

Government: The ITI supports government investment in fields related to AI and encourages governments to evaluate existing tools and use caution before adopting new laws, regulations, and taxes that could impede the responsible development and use of AI. ITI also discourages governments from requiring tech companies to provide access to technology, source code, algorithms, and encryption keys.

Public-Private Partnerships: Public-Private Partnerships should be utilized to speed up AI research and development, democratize access, prioritize diversity and inclusion, and prepare the workforce for the implications of artificial intelligence.

Responsible Design and Deployment: Highly autonomous AI systems must be designed consistent with international conventions that preserve human dignity, rights, and freedoms. It is the industry's responsibility to recognize potential for misuse and commit to ethics by design.

Safety and Controllability: Autonomous agents must treat the safety of users and third parties as a paramount concern and AI technologies should aim to reduce risks to humans. AI systems must have safeguards to ensure the controllability of the AI system by humans.

Robust and Representative Data: AI systems need to leverage large datasets to avoid potentially harmful bias.

The ITI goes on to encourage robust support for AI research, a flexible regulatory approach, and strong cybersecurity and privacy provisions.

ITI President Dean Garfield told Axios that the guidelines have been released as a way for the industry to get involved in the discussion about AI. In the past, the group has learned "painful lessons" about staying on the sidelines of debates about emerging technology.

"Sometimes our instinct is to just put our head down and do our work, to develop, design, and innovate," he said. "But there's a recognition that our ability to innovate is going to be affected by how society perceives it."


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Apple Hires AI Team From Init.ai to Join Work on Siri

Apple this week "acqui-hired" the team from Init.ai, a startup that designed a smart assistant to allow customer service representatives to easily parse through and automate some interactions with users, reports TechCrunch.

The startup focused on creating an AI with natural language processing and machine learning to analyze chat-based conversations between humans.


Init.ai announced that it was shutting down its service earlier this week to join a new project.
Today is an exciting day for our team. Init.ai is joining a project that touches the lives of countless people across the world. We are thrilled and excited at the new opportunities this brings us.

However, this means Init.ai will discontinue its service effective December 16th 2017. While we wish to make this transition as smooth as possible, we cannot continue to operate Init.ai going forward.
Apple did not purchase Init.ai and will not obtain any intellectual property nor is there an indication that Apple plans to use any existing Init.ai services. Instead, Apple has taken on the Init.ai team, who will now work on Apple's Siri personal assistant.

The addition of the Init.ai team may hint at Apple's future Siri plans, with the company perhaps planning to build out more business integrations to supplement Business Chat, the iOS 11 iMessage feature that allows businesses to communicate with customers.

TechCrunch says it's not entirely clear how many people from Init.ai will be transitioning to Apple, but the startup only employed six people.


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