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Apple poaches Google AI lead to give Siri a shot in the arm

In an apparent attempt to give its voice assistant Siri a much-needed boost, Apple has hired Google’s head of AI, John Giannandrea, to lead its AI and machine learning division.

You have to feel sorry for Siri sometimes. Apple’s virtual assistant might have initially wowed us with voice control way back in 2011, but as Google and Amazon have stepped up their voice efforts Siri has started to feel a little bit outdated.

It seems Apple thinks it has something to learn from Google. The New York Times reports that Giannandrea will report directly to Apple CEO Tim Cook, and has left his previous role to be split between two roles, one dedicated to search and one to AI.

Giannandrea leaves Google after having worked at the company for eight years.

Playing catch-up

Google might have been late to the voice assistant game, but its progress has been rapid, especially after it launched its Google Home smart speaker. It was quickly offering features that surpassed Amazon’s Alexa, such as the ability for the speaker to identify between different users.

But the voice assistant competition has felt like a two-horse race for a while now, with Siri relegated to the sidelines despite Apple having recently brought out a smart speaker of its own, the HomePod.

When discussing Siri’s flaws it’s sometimes difficult to know how much to blame outdated technology, and how much to blame Apple’s unique way of approaching things for Siri’s lack of functionality. For example, the voice assistant currently can’t play music from any streaming service other than Apple’s own Apple Music — but this feels like a very deliberate decision coming from Apple.

Regardless, hopefully Giannandrea’s arrival will bring some much-needed progress to Apple’s AI division, and help make the next generation of voice assistant AI a reality.

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