Apple’s Silk Labs purchase pushes artificial intelligence to the edge; Apple could give Siri an offline mode

“Apple’s AI push into on-device machine learning continues with news of its acquisition of Silk Labs breaking just as the U.S. heads into its annual holiday season,” Jonny Evans writes for Computerworld. “The acquisition closely matches Apple’s feelings about the need to put AI/machine intelligence at the edge. Devices must be smart enough to function when they are offline and secure enough not to damage the privacy of customers.”

“Apple’s Craig Federighi put it this way: ‘When it comes to performing analysis of your data, we’re doing it on your devices, keeping your personal data under your control,'” Evans writes. “Apple CEO, Tim Cook, has stressed both privacy and the importance of on-device AI in interviews in the last week or so.”

“Apple’s decision to develop on-device machine intelligence is shrewd — and not just on grounds of privacy,” Evans writes. “To develop smart machines that can work effectively when offline, it is mandatory to maximize on-device intelligence— smart machines must be intelligent on the edge, not just in the cloud. When it comes to larger machines, such as cars, no one wants to suffer an accident because the vehicle couldn’t get online to get told what to do next.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: If you live in an area with poor cell coverage, you know all to well valuable an offline-capable Siri would be.

“Apple’s digital personal assistant Siri currently has a huge number of limitations, but one is particularly obvious to users without cellular connections: Siri only works when connected to the internet,” Jeremy Horwitz reports for VentureBeat. “A new patent application suggests Apple is planning to change that by giving Siri an offline mode — one that the assistant can fall back upon when an internet connection isn’t available.”

“Currently, Siri depends so much on internet access that it cannot function without it. When wireless features are disabled in Airplane Mode, even an attempt to ask the current time — information that’s on the device — leads to a demurral that ‘I’m having some trouble with the connection,'” Horwitz reports. “That’s because Siri quietly relies on Apple’s servers, rather than the device itself, to interpret a user’s speech and provide a response.”

“Apple’s patent application suggests it wants to bifurcate Siri into two systems: an on-device Siri and a server-side Siri, now with the ability to determine which of the two services produces a higher ‘usefulness score’ for the user’s spoken request,” Horwitz reports. “Apple’s patent application was published [on November 15, 2018] and originally filed in September 2017, suggesting that the offline Siri feature has been in the works for some time. ”

Read more in the full article here.

Apple acquires artificial intelligence startup Silk Labs – November 21, 2018
‘Hey Siri, why don’t you have an offline mode?’ – January 18, 2017
Apple’s AirPods show just how badly Siri needs an offline mode – December 23, 2016


  1. All good..
    But what matters the most is the “ intelligence ‘ part.
    Siri is super dumb , localy or in the back end.. relative to the competition‘s..

    Without solving that first the rest are all moot points.

  2. MDN: “If you live in an area with poor cell coverage, you know all to well valuable an offline-capable Siri would be.”

    No kidding! I live in such an area, rending Siri useless when driving locally. Been hoping for an on-device Siri for years. Maybe Siri is not as smart as other AIs, but would be happy just to add items to my to-do list as I am thinking about them in car.

  3. Siri started life being able to work offline, before Apple bought it.

    turn Siri off and there is an offline phone voice dialler and more.

    Shame that Apple never bothered to do much to make offline Siri a reality. The fact Apple had to buy a company to make Siri work offline is weird – you’d think Apple would already have the programming chops to do it, but obviously not.

  4. In an effort to herd, yes, herd, it’s users from the original iPhone forward there’s been no removable storage or real filesystem access. This was to push streaming, as well as to force an upgrade if you chose the least expensive option.

    These issues linger today for iOS. What about offline mappping?

    And the fans cheered….

    1. Apple Maps automatically saves your route and map areas you load so you can view them offline. Open Apple Maps, get directions and start the navigation. That route is now available offline. I thought the MDN crowd was tech savvy.

        1. Cost per GB would be the same as any other map app where you download maps for offline use. I’m just making you aware that Apple Maps can do offline maps. You asked the question “What about offline mappping? (sic)” I answered.

    2. I use and have many countries downloaded to my iPhone for offline use. It doesn’t take up that much space. No need to carry around an SD card or worry about losing it.

      1. I have half the world in there. Yes it takes space. A lot of it.
        Chance of losing SD card = chance of losing the phone.

        And still… cost/GB?

        Then there’s the matter that removable storage is exchangeable storage.

        1. It doesn’t take a lot of space. Not sure what you’re using but maybe you need a more modern solution. What is this with cost per GB? There is no app that magically puts data on your phone without using space. Even SD cards have to get the data put on them in the first place.

          To each his own on removable storage. I don’t want it or need it. It’s a lot easier to lose track of small SD cards compared to my phone. How many times have you lost your phone? If I ever did I can use Find my iPhone. I’m not aware of a built in Find my SD Card app and I don’t want to tag my SD cards with locators. Even more hassle.

          1. Mapdata : 19.6 GB
            Will work without even a cell tower, US, Canada, Europe.

            I’m not sure at all what you mean about a more modern solution. Maps are data, the world has not gotten “less”.

            Cost/GB: 128 GB SD-Easily $50 or less, and of course replaceable. iPhone Cost to go from 64 MB to 256MB is $150. Granted, this is very different memory, but it’s the only way possible, and maps, video and music do not benefit from the added speed.,

            It is just as difficult on most devices to lose the sd card as it is to lose the sim card.

            ” I’m not aware of a built in Find my SD Card app and I don’t want to tag my SD cards with locators. Even more hassle.”

            But somehow, I think you feel different about dongles…

            Also, sd is OPTIONAL, not having it is LIMITING.

            1. My 64 GB iPhone was $50 on contract. It has more than enough space for the offline maps I have. I have a lot more than you have if all you have is Canada, US, EU. must have a better compression scheme.

              “It is just as difficult on most devices to lose the sd card as it is to lose the sim card.”

              You take your sim card out of your device? Why?

            2. If you treat SD like internal storage then why not just get enough internal storage to begin with. If fifty or a hundred bucks is beyond what you can afford then sure but quality SD cards aren’t free either. A card slot means dust and water can get in too and I don’t want that. I can pony up a bit more dough for a good amount of internal storage. I can get an iPhone XR right now with 256 GB for a couple hundred dollars on contract. There are lots of deals like that around. You don’t have to pay very much extra to get lots of storage. You just have to shop smart.

            3. My devices are waterproof.

              I can increase the memory at will, and I don’t have to pay for premium memory for non-premium tasks.

              I also buy my devices outright most of the time. Don’t like commitments. Either way, you pay.

            4. “I also buy my devices outright most of the time. Don’t like commitments. Either way, you pay.”

              I’ve done the math on buying outright. It never makes sense. Not with all the deals available. It’s probably different depending where you are but it’s the same cost for me. Why tie up any of my money when I can get a loan at cost?

            5. “Like I said, I also don’t like commitments.”

              You’re just making a different commitment. You’re choosing to tie up your capital when you buy outright. That’s also a commitment. That money can’t go to work for you when you tie it up by buying outright. I have no problem with that but you can’t say you’re not making a commitment. It’s a commitment you’re okay with that’s all.

            6. Yes. I’m choosing to tie up my capital. My capital, committed to me. I don’t like accounting anyway, I do like coming and going as I please. Either way, you’re paying.

  5. what amuses and interests me when i get through the posts on this and other MDN articles is that regardless of the persons political or social leanings most readers of MDN are tech savvy.

    For example when you boil it down most believe that SIRI although a work in progress has potential and more power while protecting privacy is a key ingredient.

    Many criticisms made MDN readers have also been valid As well as praise.

    my thoughts is that if Apple Staffers, some of that 150,000 had read MDN and other Apple nerd blog site comments over the years SO MANY PROBLEMS APPLE HAS TODAY including the stock WOULD HAVE BEEN AVOIDED. From the Mac Pro to SIRI etc ( did you listen in 2014 that we said we needed power upgradeable GPUs in the Mac Pro?). Apple staffers do you get it? we are the free advisory board better than a $100k a month consultant! LOL

    happy holidays everybody

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