There’s a lot of news lately about Apple staffing up Siri. First we heard that they are adding something like 100 additional engineers to the product. Now the New Your Times is reporting Apple hired Google’s former artificial intelligence chief, John Gannandrea to oversee Apple’s machine learning and artificial intelligence efforts. Reportedly, Gannandrea will report directly to Tim Cook.
Speaking at John Gruber’s Daring Fireball party a few years ago, Apple’s Craig Federighi and Phil Schiller both explained that Apple can still make Siri smart without looking at all of its user’s data the way Google does. I don’t remember the exact example, but they said something like they don’t need to look at your pictures of mountains to teach a computer what a mountain looks like. Nevertheless, Siri does lag behind competing virtual assistants. I found their confidence uplifting because I want both to protect my privacy and for Siri to get smarter.
It looks like Apple is going to try and make Siri better by increasing engineering while maintaining its position on user privacy. I hope this makes a difference because Google and Amazon certainly aren’t standing still.
Regardless, don’t expect results immediately. I think Siri improvements will be a gradual thing, over time. I think it’s similar to the way Apple has improved its cloud services. They’ve come a long way with iCloud over the past few years, but that would be easy to miss if you weren’t paying attention.