Is Apple paying any attention to the generative AI chatbot race?

Is Apple paying any attention to the generative AI chatbot race?

The biggest names in tech are all-in on ChatGPT and generative AI, and Apple still can't seem to get Siri right.

Credit: Dreamstime

ChatGPT is all the tech world can talk about lately, and with good reason. The AI-powered tool is impressive, but there are plenty of worries too — copyright infringement, plagiarism, use in classrooms, even lost jobs, so it's no wonder people who write for a living are stressing about AI that can seemingly write well.

But there are also starry-eyed tech companies who see the future–the ability for computers to converse naturally and create content that businesses can actually use at a scale and cost that humans can't hope to match.

But ChatGPT, Google Bard, and Microsoft's Bing chat are just one small part of the generative AI revolution. The art world has been buzzing about new generative AI art tools for the past year and freaking out about the same issues–bias, copyright, lost jobs, etc. Deepfakes, where neural networks swap out people in videos with stunning realism, were the tip of the iceberg.

These tools aren't just a flash in the pan. They're in their infancy, and getting better very rapidly. Big tech companies like Google and Microsoft see this new generative AI as a massive part of all our futures. Staking a claim and building a leadership position is as important to them as dominating the web was in the 90s.

But there's one player who isn't in the game: Apple. The most valuable technology company on earth seems to be entirely missing out on a complete revolution in computing. Apple is no stranger to AI — it sparked an assistant revolution with Siri — but it's also already squandered its lead by not investing heavily enough to fend off competitors.

Is history repeating itself with generative AI? Or does Apple have something amazing up its sleeve and is just being incredibly secretive, as it always is?

AI chat is old, AI creation is new

All the biggest tech companies have been crowing about AI for years. AI that isolates and parses your speech for dictation and voice assistants, and can distinguish between voices for personalised results. AI that pieces together recorded sounds to talk to you.

AI that isolates parts of images to easily edit them. AI that identifies objects and people to power your searches. AI that lets you select the text in any image.

Apple does all this stuff. It's so important to the company that they build a Neural Engine into all their chips, specialised hardware that accelerates machine learning tasks like these. Apple's even working on the biggest AI challenge of all, self-driving cars.

But generative AI is something else. It's a newer class of AI that creates something entirely new using almost no text input. Yes, training the models takes a ton of time and a mountain of data, but then those models that the users will run are comparatively small and can seemingly make an infinite amount of new stuff.

The AI that can find all the potatoes in your photo library is a totally different thing from one that can draw a potato from scratch in a wide variety of artistic styles.

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