Photo courtesy of Apple

Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) keynote began and ended without any of the speakers mentioning the term “Artificial Intelligence” despite the high expectation that the term would be used in almost every statement.

The Calm Amidst the AI Storm

Since the debut of ChatGPT, the tech industry has focused on nothing else other than generative AI. To avoid missing out on the hype, every company and all of its divisions have resolved to incorporate the technology in any way, shape, or form into its product suite or services.

Apple’s lacking AI focus was surprising, especially after Google referred to the technology more times than one could count during its recent I/O Conference. The event which is normally a stage to unveil all the new products that the company has been working on was solely focused on AI so much so that it overshadowed the great products the company had in line.

For instance, the Pixel wasn’t called a smartphone. Instead, it was said to have been “leading the way in AI-driven hardware experiences” and was now the “only phone with AI at the center.” It was “conceived as an AI-first mobile computer” that “delivers truly personal AI.”

Source: Google

On the other hand, Apple veered entirely away from the common narrative and had none of its executives refer to the term. In any context where the technology would fit, the company instead used the term “machine learning” which was also only mentioned seven times in the entire keynote.

One would argue that the technology company wants no part in the hype and could easily miss out on the trend. However, Apple has shown that it is treading carefully especially when it comes to AI but is not necessarily ignoring the technology.

In fact, some of the features unveiled during the WWDC were powered by machine learning, for instance, the personalized volume feature for AirPods uses machine learning to understand environmental conditions and listening preferences while the improved smart stack on watchOS uses machine learning to show users relevant information right when they need it.

Apple also integrated machine learning capabilities to generate additional frames for the new iPad lock screen which animates live photos as well as to provide intelligently curated prompts in the new Journal app.

The star of the WWDC event, the Vision Pro, also incorporated advanced machine learning for the creation of the 3D avatars used for video calls on the device in addition to natural language processing to facilitate speech inputs.

Apple’s Unique Approach to AI and Tech in General

Therefore, if it is evident that the company is investing money and other resources in the technology, it is questionable why it would not talk about it. It also raises concerns as to whether this distance from the technology will cause it to be left behind during the revolution.

While it is not explicit why Apple will not mention AI, the company has a history of not jumping into trends. For instance, when unveiling the Vision Pro, Cook did not use the term Metaverse during the entire keynote, even though many rivals would likely use the word to describe the device.

Vision Pro AI
Photo courtesy of Apple

During an interview with Dutch media outlet Bright last year, Cook said:

“I always think it’s important that people understand what something is. And I’m really not sure the average person can tell you what the metaverse is.”

The same sentiment was shared by Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, who frequently used the term “it just works” to describe the company’s products, suggesting that they were intended to solve issues rather than cause people more difficulty.

During a recent interview with Finacial Times, writer Ted Chiang referred to artificial intelligence as “A poor word choice in 1954.” And unlike the rest of the world, experts in the field of AI have also expressed their dislike for the phrase “artificial intelligence” citing that it is vague and overused, conjuring up images from science fiction rather than actual, useful technology.

Should Siri Be Revamped With AI?

Despite the fact that the refrain from AI has had no effects so far, Apple might be missing out on the chance to revamp Siri, its digital assistant. Although Apple may have pioneered Siri as a consumer product, the company’s digital assistant has been ridiculed for years, and it’s obvious that the project is no longer a top priority for the business.

During the WWDC, the biggest Siri update was the reduction of the trigger word from “Hey Siri” to “Siri.” In a world where AI language models are significantly enhancing computers’ comprehension of language and creating new opportunities in industries like education and health, Apple has done little to improve Siri.

While using the phrase AI more might not do much to improve the product, embracing the technology and its advancements more will.

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