Apple has combined its various artificial intelligence divisions into a new structure led by recent hire John Giannandrea, formerly Google’s head of search and AI. TechCrunch first reported the restructuring earlier today, and Apple confirmed the change with an update to its executive leadership page. Giannandrea will now be in charge of Apple’s machine learning division, its Siri team, and the Core ML team. Core ML is the machine learning API Apple launched last year to help native AI tasks and AI-focused apps and services from third-party developers run more efficiently on iOS devices.
Giannandrea’s official title will be chief of machine learning and AI strategy, and it’s clear Apple leadership is putting its faith in the executive to help beef up its AI efforts. Apple lags behind in key AI areas like natural language processing and computer vision, both of which are necessary to power voice assistant features within Siri and new, more cutting-edge technology like augmented reality apps that rely on object recognition.
Because of Apple’s commitment to user privacy and its less active role in the AI research community, its been unable to either amass useful machine learning data sets to train new algorithms on or attract the type of research talent that Facebook, Google, and other Silicon Valley giants have paid top dollar for in recent years.
That’s put Apple at a severe disadvantage in new, lucrative markets like the smart home. It’s also kept long-time Apple products like Maps and Photos playing catch up with superior alternatives from Google and others that have the benefit of more robust AI software under the hood. With Giannandrea in control of all Apple’s AI efforts, it appears that the company is hoping a more unified vision, shared resources, and closer collaboration will help it make up for lost time.