On June 22nd, Apple hosted its first-time-ever online Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC), introducing a new generation of products. Sprinkled throughout Apple’s announcements there about iOS, iPadOS, and macOS were a number of features that signal the company’s commitment to AI technology. Here is a rundown on the most prominent machine learning updates after Apple’s 2020 WWDC.
AI has become an integral part of every tech company’s pitch to consumers. Fail to hype up machine learning or neural networks when unveiling a new product, and you might as well be hawking hand-cranked calculators. This can lead to overpromising. But judging by its recent announcements, Apple has adopted a smarter and quieter approach. In the 2020 WWDC, some machine learning elements weren’t announced on stage, and some features that almost certainly use AI weren’t identified as such, but there were still prominent mentions in the event.
Some of the key highlights in terms of AI integration in Apple’s upcoming line of product include:
• Facial recognition for HomeKit. HomeKit-enabled smart cameras will use photos you’ve tagged on your phone to identify who’s at your door and even announce them by name.
• Native sleep tracking for the Apple Watch. This uses machine learning to classify your movements and detect when you’re sleeping. The same mechanism also allows the Apple Watch to track new activities like dancing and…
• Handwashing. The Apple Watch not only detects the motion but also the sound of handwashing, starting a countdown timer to make sure you’re washing for as long as needed.
• App Library suggestions. A folder in the new App Library layout will use “on-device intelligence” to show apps you’re “likely to need next.” It’s small but potentially useful.
• Translate app. This works completely offline, thanks to on-device machine learning. It detects the languages being spoken and can even do live translations of conversations.
• Sound alerts in iOS 14. This accessibility feature wasn’t mentioned onstage, but it will let your iPhone listen for things like doorbells, sirens, dogs barking, or babies crying.
What these updates do show, though, is Apple’s interest in using machine learning to deliver small conveniences rather than some grand, unifying “AI” project, as some tech companies have promised with their own digital assistants, claiming to seamlessly improve your life by scheduling your calendar, preempting your commute, and so on.
The best example of this tame approach is the new handwashing feature on the Apple Watch, which uses AI to identify when you’re scrubbing your mitts and starts a timer. It’s a small and silly feature, but one that asks little of the user while delivering a useful function.
This is a strong tactic for Apple that plays to the company’s long-held reputation — deserved or not — for delivering software that “just works.” It also avoids the sort of iterative, tech-for-tech’s-sake update that can fall flat with the average consumer, like Samsung’s Bixby.
However, there’s also a risk to this approach. Focus too much on convenience, and you can end up overlooking customers’ need for privacy, a mistake that Amazon seems to frequently make, like when it began delivering packages inside your house. This could be a danger for Apple’s machine learning work as well, despite the company’s continued focus on privacy.
Moreover, there seem to be absences in the improvement list — most notably Siri, Apple’s perennially disappointing digital assistant. Although Siri is AI-heavy, it mostly got cosmetic updates this year. A new interface is a welcome change for sure, but it’s small fry when you compare Siri’s overall performance with other AI assistants.
Nevertheless, it is Apple’s commitment to introducing and then refining its machine learning technologies and services that should be applauded. This is one of many example of how AI and machine learning are becoming ever more prevalent in the digital world. These technologies can not only introduce greater conveniences for daily life activities but also play an integral role in sales and service improvement for businesses.
Recognizing this inevitable shift to AI in the global tech scene, CMC Global is the frontrunner in Vietnam in AI research and product & solution implementation, with a determination to provide the best IT solution to both domestic and international customers.
For those starting to look for a Digital Transformation to future technologies, including AI implementation, please refer to our services here.