Popular consensus has it that Apple has missed the AI boat. While Microsoft has pumped billions into forging an alliance with Chat GPT, graphics chip maker Nvidia has rebadged itself as THE AI enabler and Google is working as hard as it can to get rid of as many humans as possible, Apple has been notoriously silent on the matter.
Casually skimming the surface it would appear that Apple's only dip into artificial waters came with the launch of Siri, their still-alive-and-well… digital assistant that - despite being wheeled out as part of the iPhone 4S launch in 2011 - still more often speaks when not spoken to or misunderstands when she is.
But worry not, Apple watchers. According to findings from Stocklytics apace. In fact, the site reckons that it took on 32 such companies in 2023 - more than rivals Google (at 21), Meta (18), Microsoft (17) and Amazon (10).
Companies already secured by the iOS giant include:
Voysis, a natural language digital assistant which focuses on helping voice-assisted shopping and purchases
WaveOne, a video compression company
Emotient, a company whose AI tech can read people's emotions by analysing facial expressions.
Laserlike, a news reading/tracking service that can keep track of interests, topics and stories across outlets.
Drive.ai, a self-driving autonomous car-tech company.
AI.Music, technology that produces AI-generated music that can suit your mood.
And, most recently, Brighter AI, a service that anonymises video data, replacing real people's likenesses with photo realistic artificial ones, allowing them to use video data obtained by the front-facing cameras of Vision Pro (for example) for use in AI training and machine learning while remaining famously squeaky clean on privacy.
Sum of its parts
Rather than simply step in and buy finished solutions wholesale ("Nice fully functioning Chat GPT model, we'll take it") Apple have secured all of these startups at early stages of their gestation and - it's assumed - all these teams (and more) are working together on a bigger, cross-platform, desktop, mobile, watch, phone, tablet, you-name-it strategy that'll bring new AI skills to the combined iOS ecosystem and everything that uses it.
And rumours persist that having amped up the machine learning and AI power within iPhone 15 and last year's iPads, that this power - yet to get a proper work out in the real world - will be central to the new skills of iPhone 16. It's speculated that combined with iOS18 that 2024's hardware will represent the biggest step up in years, delivering on-device, voice-activated features, which won't require a network connection, the harvesting of any private data and will give instant responses that will put Siri to shame.
Want a glimpse of what's coming up? Apple recently outlined their in-progress MLLM-Guided Image Editing AI, a system that can edit images using voice prompts. No more pushing sliders or drawing rings around edits, simply say "Take grandma out of the picture" or "Make me look like I'm enjoying myself" and the results are instant.
In fact, with today's Siri so often letting the side down, it's easy to see where Apple could score an easy, crowd-pleasing win. And with the power to do it on device and without collecting any data, its competitors may have a challenge ahead.