Apple's HomePod is a third behind Amazon and Google in terms of market share for smartphones that doubles as home nodes with a market share of less than 5% of these devices in the US, according to a poll recently. And his former Siri assistant has been determined to remain behind Google in terms of understanding and accuracy. But there are signs that the company has the intention of doubling AI, putting it at the center of the next generation of products and using acquisitions to help.
Information reports that Apple quietly acquired Silk Labs, a San Francisco-based, who worked on AI-based personal assistant technology for both home and mobile hubs.
There are two notable things about Silk's platform that distinguishes her from other assistants: she has been able to modify her behavior because she has learned more about her users over time (both using sound and vision); and was designed to work on the device – a clue for intimacy and concerns about "always on" speakers listening to you; improved device processing and constraints of cloud technology and networks.
Apple did not respond to comment requests, but we found that at least some of the Silk Labs employees seem to work for Apple already (LinkedIn lists nine employees for Silk Labs laboratories, all with technical backgrounds).
That means it's not clear whether this is a complete acquisition or an aquis-hire – while we learn more we'll update this post – but bringing the team (and potential technology) talks about Apple's need and interest to double down for build products that are not just repetitions of what we already have on the market.
Silk Labs first appeared in February 2016, Adreas Gal's creature, Mozilla's former CTO, who also created the company's mobile platform, OS Firefox; and Michael Vines, who came from Qualcomm. (Comes, among other things, moved in June 2018 to become the chief engineer for a blockchain start, Solana.)
His first product was originally designed as integrated software and hardware: the company raised below $ 165,000 in a Kickstarter to build and carry Sense, a smart speaker that would provide a way to control home-connected devices and respond to questions and – in the device – be able to monitor the cameras and learn to recognize people and their actions.
Only four months later, Silk Labs Laboratories announced that they will refine Sense hardware focusing specifically on the software, called Silk, after saying that it has begun receiving questions from original equipment manufacturers interested in purchasing a version of the platform on their own devices also raised money outside the Kickstarter, around 4 million dollars).
Potentially, Silk could offer OEMs a way to differentiate themselves from the multitude of devices already on the market. In addition to products from Google and Amazon, there are also a number of speakers from those assistants, along with the devices that use Microsoft's Cortana.
When Silk Labs announced that they had stopped developing hardware, they found that some commercial partnerships were being discussed (while opening a basic version of the Silk platform for creating IoT devices).
Silk Labs Laboratories have never revealed the names of those partners, but buying and closing the company would be a way to make sure technology remains with one company.
The temptation is to match what Silk Labs has so far built specifically with Apple's efforts, especially in its own intelligent speaker, HomePod.
Specifically, it could provide a smarter engine to learn about users, operate even if the internet is down and ensure user privacy and becomes crucial for how anything else could work in the connected life.
This would mean a mixture of features that would clearly separate him from the market leader of the moment, and would play in aspects – especially in private life – that people are starting to grow more and more value.
But if you consider the range of hardware and services that Apple now involves, you can see that the Silk team and potentially the IP could have a wider impact.
Apple had a mixed run when it comes to AI. The company was a beginner when she put her first Siri voice assistant on iPhone 4S in 2011 and for a long time people would always mention Amazon and Google (except Microsoft) when they complain about how in which a selection of few technology companies have managed to destroy all AI talents, leaving little room for other companies to look at building products or have a stake in how they have been developed on a wider scale.
More recently, however, it seems that Amazon – with Alexa's powered device portfolio – and Google have stolen a march when it comes to consumer products built with AI technologies in their center and as a primary interface with their users. (Siri sometimes feels like a nuisance when you call it accidentally in action by tapping the touch bar or the home button on my older iPhone.)
But it is almost certain that it is wrong to assume that Apple, one of the largest companies in the world known to play its hand close to the chest, has lost its way in this area.
There have been some indications, however, that it becomes serious and we rethink how things are done.
A few months ago, he reorganized AI teams into former Google Giannandrea, losing talent in this process, but it sets the pace for how its Siri and Core ML teams will work together in various company projects, from development tools to mapping and more.
Apple has also made dozens of smaller and bigger purchases over the past few years, who were talking about gaining more talent and IP in trying to build their AI muscle in different areas, from augmented reality and computer vision until the large data processing of the back side. Even other companies, such as VocalIQ in England, have been acquired, focusing on voice interfaces and learning from interactions.
Surely, the company has begun to see a slowdown in iPhone sales (if not revenue: prices are higher than ever), which means devices with newer accents and increasing weight on services running on these devices. Services can be expanded and expanded and are recurring revenue – two great reasons Apple will turn into investing more.
Expect to see that the AI network does not just cover the iPhone, but the computers, Apple's intelligent clock, its own intelligent speaker, HomePod, Apple Music, Health and your entire digital life.