John Giannandrea, Google's former head of search and artificial intelligence, joins Apple. The contract, reported for the first time by The New York Times, comes a day after the executive announced he would leave his post at Google, a surprise move in the midst of a broader executive reorganization that now makes much more sense in retrospect.
Giannandrea, an expert in machine learning who joined Google in 2010, is a great achievement for Apple, which has struggled for years to progress in fields of artificial intelligence increasingly important as artificial vision and natural language processing. Giannandrea will directly inform CEO Tim Cook as the leader of "machine learning and AI strategy," according to the Times.
Both Facebook and Google, and to a lesser extent Amazon and Microsoft, are powers in artificial intelligence, which employ hundreds of researchers working in several different domains who routinely publish substantive documents that help inform internal products and the collective research community of artificial intelligence in general. Apple, although it helped define the initial market for voice-based digital assistants with Siri, has not had access to the data or the talent and resources to investigate AI development with the same level of intensity as its rivals. .
Apple lags behind rivals in the Facebook and Google industry in AI research
Siri is still the target of innumerable jokes about AI's lack of sophistication. The overall conception of the Siri platform is that it remains behind the quality level of the Google Assistant, which uses some of the same game-changing algorithms that drive Google Translate and Google Image Search, and also lags behind Alexa, the leader of the Amazon home industry. .
It was not until December 2016 that Apple even allowed its own employees to publish research on AI, a common practice even among the top AI researchers on Facebook and Google. It also took the company many months to join an ethical research consortium in artificial intelligence co-founded by Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook and IBM. Industry insiders say that Apple's approach to data collection and user privacy, while commendable from an idealistic point of view, hinders its ability to keep up with other Silicon Valley heavyweights.
With Giannandrea joining the fold, however, Apple can recruit more high-level talent and improve its algorithms, a feat the company has said it wants to achieve without violating its privacy stance. However, because neural networks, the backbone of deep learning techniques for developing self-improvement software, require large amounts of data to be trained, Apple is necessarily at a disadvantage because it only has access to publicly available sets. Facebook and Google, on the other hand, operate large-scale data collection operations with billions of users around the world.
For Google, the loss of Giannandrea probably does not have a big impact on their AI efforts. Taking Giannandrea's place is Google veteran Jeff Dean, widely regarded as one of the most talented and reliable figures in AI research. Dean was co-founder of Google Brain, the research unit that is behind some of the most significant advances of the last 10 years. He is now in charge of the entire Google IA unit, which has been separated from the search team, focusing on how the AI will be implemented in the products and in the long-term research. Facebook recently enacted a similar executive reorganization to better align its AI research and apply IA product teams under a single executive.