Reports indicate that Apple has poached Google’s head of artificial intelligence and search, John Giannandrea. This came after Giannandrea disclosed that he was resigning from the online search giant. Giannandrea’s position will be taken over by Jeff Dean who previously headed the Google Brain project.
The hiring of Giannandrea is a plus for Apple as the iPhone maker has struggled with regards to artificial intelligence fields such as natural language processing and computer vision. According to The New York Timeswhich broke the story, Giannandrea will be reporting directly to the chief executive officer of Apple, Tim Cook.
Google and other firms such as Facebook, Microsoft and Amazon have proven their mettle in artificial intelligence. These tech firms have hundreds of researchers in their employ working on the field. Though Apple was instrumental in defining voice-based smart assistants when it unveiled Siri, the iPhone maker lacks access to data as well as the research talent that would have ensured its approaches the development of artificial intelligence with the same intensity as its competitors. Siri thus lacks sophistication and is routinely made fun of as it lags behind Alexa and Google Assistant.
With regards to publication of research papers on artificial intelligence Apple only started allowing its researchers to participate in December 2016 despite the fact that it is common practice in the industry. Apple also took a while before it joined an AI research consortium that was started by IBM, Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon and Google. According to industry insiders the approach Apple has taken towards user privacy and data collection is what is preventing Apple from making similar progress in artificial intelligence like its peers.
Now with Giannandrea on board Apple has an opportunity to attract top-level talent who will assist in improving its algorithms, a goal that the iPhone maker has set on condition that its privacy stance is not violated. However Apple is likely to remain at a disadvantage neural networks need huge amounts of data in order to be trained. Currently Apple only has access to data sets that are publicly available unlike Google and Facebook which have operations that collect data on a large scale from billions of users spread across the world.
Before poaching Giannandrea Apple had been searching for a senior AI executive for close to a year. Other hires that Apple has made in the AI field include Ruslan Salakhutdinov and Carlos Guestrin.