Apple just positioned itself in one of the hottest areas in tech. The company bought Turi, a machine learning start-up for $200 million. As usual, An Apple spokesman issued the company’s standard statement in connection with such transactions: “Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans.”
Carlos Guestrin, who holds the title of Amazon professor of machine learning at the University of Washington, leads Turi. He is also an associate professor of computer science and engineering.
Machine learning is not new to Apple. It has already been using some of the AI/Machine learning principles in Siri, but not at the scale of Google.
Simply put, Machine Learning is the field that studies how to make computers learn. In other words, a Machine Learning algorithm is a computer program that teaches computers how to program themselves so that we don’t have to explicitly describe how to perform the task we want to achieve.
Google has really stepped up its game when it comes to machine learning. It has promoted an open source platform called TensorFlow, which is cloud based and has deep learning systems with Neural networks.
Even Samsung via its Samsung Ventures group has been rapidly investing into Machine learning start-ups. It has invested into companies such as MindMeld and Zimperium.
This announcement is pretty consistent with remarks from Tim Cook during the last conference call where he said that
“Machine learning is improving facial and image recognition in photos, predicting word choice while typing in messages and mail, and providing context awareness in maps for better directions,”
Apple is definitely trying to position Apple TV as the heart of future home automation and intelligent Siri Controls. It would not be surprising to see new and intelligent features come out in the Home app in the future. Perhaps this is one area where machine learning can extend Apple’s competitive positioning.
The other area where Apple is making a push is in Healthcare. Recently it announced partnership with GlaxoSmithKline to spearhead ResearchKit use for a clinical study. An emerging area in clinical studies is the use of Machine Learning. There is already a fair amount of work that is being done in this area by academic researchers.
In the near term, one can expect a more intelligent and versatile Siri that is driven by machine learning!