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Apple poaches Google’s AI Chief to make Siri smarter

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Apple has nabbed John Giannandrea, the former head of Google’s search and artificial intelligence department, to be its new machine learning and AI strategy chief. As reported by The New York Times, it’s a major coup for the Cupertino-based company and will boost its efforts to improve Siri and its AI tech in general.

As we learnt in an in-depth report last month, Apple’s Siri has been lagging behind rivals like Alexa and the Google Assistant because of numerous missteps by the company over the years. Giannandrea is being viewed as a change to that narrative.

Many people were surprised when news broke that Giannandrea had left his post as Google’s AI chief, but the decision makes sense now that we know he was intending to join Apple. He’s played an important role in building the search giant’s AI know-how at a time when AI research has become increasingly important within the firm.

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Giannandrea has helped integrate AI into a variety of Google products such as Gmail, Search, and the Google Assistant. He joined the brand all the way back in 2010 when it acquired Metaweb, a startup whose technology eventually got integrated into Search’s direct answer feature.

Apple CEO Tim Cook offered up small hints at what’s to come in a letter he sent to his employees, telling them that its technology must be infused with the values they all hold dear. He also said that Giannandrea shares its commitment to privacy and its thoughtful approach as it make computers even smarter and more personal.

Apple has always taken a very strong stance on privacy, but this isn’t great for machine learning since neural networks require enormous amounts of data to improve. Google has the advantage here clearly, but the iPhone maker had previously said that it was developing ways to train its system without compromising on privacy.