“On July 30, 2014, Siri had a brain transplant,” Steven Levy writes for Backchannel. “Three years earlier, Apple had been the first major tech company to integrate a smart assistant into its operating system. Siri was the company’s adaptation of a standalone app it had purchased, along with the team that created it, in 2010. Initial reviews were ecstatic, but over the next few months and years, users became impatient with its shortcomings. All too often, it erroneously interpreted commands. Tweaks wouldn’t fix it.”
“So Apple moved Siri voice recognition to a neural-net based system for US users on that late July day (it went worldwide on August 15, 2014),” Levy writes. “Some of the previous techniques remained operational — if you’re keeping score at home, this includes ‘hidden Markov models’ — but now the system leverages machine learning techniques, including deep neural networks (DNN), convolutional neural networks, long short-term memory units, gated recurrent units, and n-grams. (Glad you asked.) When users made the upgrade, Siri still looked the same, but now it was supercharged with deep learning.”
“As is typical with under-the-hood advances that may reveal its thinking to competitors, Apple did not publicize the development. If users noticed, it was only because there were fewer errors. In fact, Apple now says the results in improving accuracy were stunning,” Levy writes. “This story of Siri’s transformation, revealed for the first time here, might raise an eyebrow in much of the artificial intelligence world. Not that neural nets improved the system — of course they would do that — but that Apple was so quietly adept at doing it.”
“I spent the better part of a day in the boardroom of One Infinite Loop at the Cupertino headquarters, getting a core dump of the company’s activities in AI and machine learning from top Apple executives (Cue, senior worldwide marketing vice president Phil Schiller, and senior vice president of software engineering Craig Federighi), as well as two key Siri scientists. As we sat down, they handed me a dense, two-page agenda listing machine-learning-imbued Apple products and services — ones already shipping or about to — that they would discuss,” Levy writes. “The message: ‘We’re already here. A player. Second to none.'”
Tons more in the full article – very highly recommended – here.
MacDailyNews Take: Which may also help explain why Siri on Apple Watch got and continues to get such raves – people who had sort of given up on Siri on their iPhones gave it another try upon getting their new Apple Watches starting in April 2015 and, lo and behold, found Siri was “so much better on Apple Watch” when, in fact, Siri is so much better everywhere!
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