Apple is working on improvements to its virtual assistant, Siri, amid a surge in growth of generative artificial intelligence technology such as ChatGPT, according to a media report.
Engineers at the iPhone-maker have made proposals to incorporate machine learning capabilities into Siri that are similar to those found in the highly-popular ChatGPT, The Information reported on Thursday.
It said there are plans to launch the improvements in 2024, although there is no guarantee Apple's management will approve the changes, “given the company’s highly cautious approach to developing Siri over the past 12 years”, the report said.
Siri is included in Apple's main product categories and responds to voice commands to help users do anything from searching the web to seeking directions, setting alarms and creating to-do lists.
The technology made its debut on the iPhone 4S in 2011. Since then, Siri has received regular updates to improve its performance, but the rise in popularity of generative AI may have prompted the California-based company to speed up its efforts.
Generative AI — made popular by the Microsoft-backed OpenAI's ChatGPT — can produce various kinds of data, including audio, code, images, text, simulations, 3D objects and videos.
While it takes cues from existing data, it is also capable of generating new and unexpected outputs, according to GenerativeAI.net.
Google's Bard, a rival to ChatGPT, made a factual error during a promotional video in February, days after it was launched, wiping out $100 billion in market value from parent company Alphabet.
In the same month, Microsoft's Bing chatbot caused alarm after becoming threatening — including speaking of desires to steal nuclear codes, create a deadly virus or to be alive.
Analysts and academics said it behaved that way because it was probably mimicking what it had learnt from online conversations.
Billions of dollars have been poured into generative AI, and Twitter chief executive Elon Musk said earlier this month that he planned to join the race. He is aiming to develop a “truth-seeking” generative AI platform to challenge ChatGPT and Bard, the billionaire said.
Apple, however, was dealt a setback when three engineers who helped to modernise its search technology left for Google in late 2022, The Information said.
The trio — Steven Baker, Anand Shukla and Srinivasan Venkatachary — would go on to work on the underlying technology of ChatGPT, it said, citing people familiar with the matter.
Siri's rise also prompted Apple rivals Samsung Electronics and Alphabet's Google to launch their own voice technologies, Bixby and Google Assistant, respectively.
In February, Seoul-based Samsung, the world's biggest manufacturer of mobile devices, announced updates to its Bixby voice assistant that “improve user experience, performance and capabilities” to “deliver significant improvements”.
In Apple's case, it may play catch-up to the head start built by Microsoft and Google in generative AI.
However, the company is also known for not necessarily being the first to introduce new innovations, but making a splash by building on and improving what is already out in the market.
Apple is also planning to expand its push into health and wellness with an AI-driven coaching service as well as new technology for tracking emotions, Bloomberg reported this week.
Code-named Quartz, it is aimed at motivating users to stay healthy, improve their eating habits and sleep better, it said.