Apple is boosting the size of its artificial intelligence staff, looking to add at least 86 new positions to create smartphone features that predict what users will want next, Reuters reports. The company is recruiting artificial intelligence experts from PhD programs geared toward machine learning, which lets devices use previous experience to infer what users are likely to need in the future. The capability relies on computing vast amounts of data to provide those unprompted services, and while Apple pioneered the idea of the idea of a digital assistant with the introduction of Siri in 2011, experts say the company’s strict stance on privacy could undermine Apple’s ability to compete with the likes of Google, Amazon and Facebook in the future. The company’s self-imposed restraints on pooling and analyzing user data means Apple’s only option would be analyzing the data on each user’s iPhone, which former employees said complicates the work at every turn. Companies like Google and Microsoft have far fewer qualms about accumulating and studying user data, allowing them to learn about users faster and create personal assistant features more suited to their daily routines.
Apple has acquired social media analytics firm Topsy and personalized podcasting app Swell, among other companies in the field. When asked for comment on the growing AI initiative, an Apple spokeswoman pointed to statements from senior VP of Software Engineering Craig Federighi, who said the company is “adding intelligence throughout the user experience in a way that enhances how you use your device but without compromising your privacy, things like improving the apps that you use most.”