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Apple is reportedly testing generative AI concepts that could potentially improve Siri, the company’s virtual assistant. Despite fundamental issues with Siri’s design, Apple engineers, including members of the Siri team, have been testing language-generation concepts every week in response to the rise of chatbots like ChatGPT.
These next-generation AI technologies have highlighted how Siri, Alexa, and other voice assistants have fallen behind in the AI race. Siri, in particular, has faced multiple roadblocks to meaningful improvements.
Former Apple engineer John Burkey, who worked on Siri and was made responsible for improving it in 2014, explained that the voice assistant is built on “clunky code that took weeks to update with basic features”.
The “cumbersome design” of Siri has made it challenging for engineers to add new features. For example, Siri’s database contains a large list of phrases in almost two dozen languages, making it “one big snowball”.
Adding a word to Siri’s database requires rebuilding the entire database, which could take up to six weeks. Adding more complicated features like new search tools could take up to a year.
According to Burkey, there was no path for Siri to become a “creative assistant” like ChatGPT. This week, OpenAI unveiled GPT-4, its next-generation AI engine, enabling even more advanced responses from ChatGPT.
DigiTimes reported last week that the growing interest in generative AI catalyzed by ChatGPT has motivated a re-evaluation of how the technology is developed at major companies like Apple, Meta, and Amazon. These companies are purportedly making efforts to ensure Microsoft does not maintain its lead in AI. Apple and Tesla, in particular, are said to be reconsidering their approach to AI.
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Despite Siri’s fundamental issues, Apple is exploring ways to improve the virtual assistant with generative AI concepts. The rise of chatbots like ChatGPT has highlighted the limitations of Siri and other voice assistants in the AI race. However, Apple and other major tech companies are making efforts to catch up to Microsoft’s lead in AI.