Apple’s first AI paper marks a major step for the company. For years, the AI research community has been critical of Apple’s secretiveness. Its secrecy has even hurt the company’s recruiting efforts for AI talent. The move towards more openness with the community is important for Apple as the push for more advanced AI software spreads across the tech industry. AI software is becoming essential for everything from the camera capabilities in Apple’s latest iPhones to the internet services running in the data center.
Let’s take a look at the 2016 acquisitions would give us more than a clue as to where Apple will focus in the future.
A startup that uses artificial-intelligence technology to decipher people’s emotions by analyzing their facial expressions. The technology can be used for a number of things including detecting pain, reading reactions to content or situations we are exposed to – think advertising and retail. Emotient had been granted a patent for a method of collecting and labeling as many as 100,000 facial images a day that can be used to teach computers to better recognize facial expressions.
A San Francisco-based startup focusing on tools that help teachers monitor students’ attendance, grades, and other school activities through easier access to school information systems. One of the purposes of collecting such information and making it available to teachers was to help identify at-risk students.
A company that worked with Google on Project Tango. Flyby Media developed technology that allows mobile phones to see and scan, through the camera, the world around them. The company’s website also said they were developing the next generation of consumer mobile-social applications that connect the physical and the digital worlds.
A firmware security company that specializes in “digital voodoo” or security at the deepest and darkest levels of computer systems.
A popular show Apple licensed 16 episodes of and is to be produced (but not hosted) by James Corden as well as Ben Winston, the “Late Late Show’ executive producer. Tim Cook and Corden kicked off Apple’s September event with a special edition of Carpool Karaoke.
A machine learning and artificial intelligence startup focused on tools that help enterprises make better sense of data. Turi also enables developers to build apps with machine learning and artificial intelligence capabilities that automatically scale and tune.
A Silicon Valley-based company that built a personal health data platform that enables any American to collect, personalize, and share a picture of their health data. The focus was particularly around cancer and diabetes patients.
An Indian-based machine learning company specializing in software that processes and analyzes big sets of data quickly.
A Finnish company focusing on indoor location and mapping.
The focus for Apple seems centered around artificial intelligence, augmented reality, enterprise and education.
Artificial intelligence is probably the best example of how different the expectations vs. what Apple delivers might be. For many, artificial intelligence simply boils down to how smart Siri is. However, intelligence in devices is expressed in many different ways. Learning which color emoji is your preference, learning your most likely route at a given time of the day, understanding a reference to a time and a place in an email and setting up an appointment for you are all examples of how “intelligence” can be used to make our experiences better.
Machine learning and fast data processing are key to feeding the brain of any artificial intelligence.
Augmented reality is an area in which Tim Cook has expressed interest and excitement. Aside from gaming which, of course, is a big part of what iPhones are used for, there are commercial experiences that could benefit from an augmented reality, mixed reality, merged reality or whatever else you want to call this blend of real and digital worlds.
Enterprise is becoming more and more important for Apple and security plays a big role in selling devices to enterprise. iPhones and iPads continue to penetrate organizations, becoming more of a target for hackers. Apple needs to stay ahead of the game. While consumers might not always recognize how important security is, Apple has been very passionate about security for quite some time. As we use our devices, not just to store pictures and contacts info but payment information, health information, smart home connections, we want our devices, as well as our data, to not to be accessible to people with bad intentions.
The challenge for Apple will be to continue to stay focus on delivering better experiences, rather than getting distracted by proving they can innovate by delivering sexy gadgets.