SiriSource: Apple

What you need to know

  • John Giannandrea, Apple's head of AI, sat down for an interview.
  • The interview covered his career, privacy, and competing AI philosophies.
  • Giannandrea believes that Apple is taking the right approach to the technology.

John Giannandrea, Apple's head of AI, sat down for an interview with Ars Technica to talk about the company's approach to machine learning and why he believes Apple is ahead of everyone else in the game.

When asked about his experience when first joining the company, Giannandrea talked about how he found out that Apple did not even have a machine learning team working on handwriting for the Apple Pencil. He says things have changed dramatically since then.

"When I joined Apple, I was already an iPad user, and I loved the Pencil. So, I would track down the software teams and I would say, 'Okay, where's the machine learning team that's working on handwriting?' And I couldn't find it. I knew that there was so much machine learning that Apple should do that it was surprising that not everything was actually being done. And that has changed dramatically in the last two to three years. I really honestly think there's not a corner of iOS or Apple experiences that will not be transformed by machine learning over the coming few years."

When asked about Apple's approach to mostly on-device learning compared to many other companies who rely on the cloud, the executive says that Apple is actually taking the correct approach in that it results in better accuracy and privacy.

"Yes, I understand this perception of bigger models in data centers somehow are more accurate, but it's actually wrong. It's actually technically wrong. It's better to run the model close to the data, rather than moving the data around. And whether that's location data—like what are you doing— (or) exercise data—what's the accelerometer doing in your phone—it's just better to be close to the source of the data, and so it's also privacy preserving."

Giannandrea says that he joined Apple because his vision for smart technology aligned with the company, and that he believes they will be able to build the most impactful experiences at a scale other companies simply could not.

"I think that Apple has always stood for that intersection of creativity and technology. And I think that when you're thinking about building smart experiences, having vertical integration, all the way down from the applications, to the frameworks, to the silicon, is really essential... I think it's a journey, and I think that this is the future of the computing devices that we have, is that they be smart, and that, that smart sort of disappear."

You can check out the entire interview at Ars Technica.