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Google's AI head boffin been poached by Apple

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The New York Times reports that Giannandrea will report directly to Apple CEO Tim Cook, and has left his previous role to be split between two roles, one dedicated to search and one to AI.

In March, technology site The Information detailed seven years of infighting within the Siri team at Apple, with multiple attempts to reorganise the basic technology that underpins the feature falling prey to internal politics which limited attempts to improve the overall product.

In an email written to employees, Cook announced that Giannandrea was joining Apple. Metaweb was building what it described as an "A comprehensive database of World's Knowledge" which Google eventually rolled into its search engine to deliver direct answers to users' queries. Arming them with virtual lasers and putting them in a virtual environment full of green "apples", they were tasked with gathering more than the other, while fending each other off. Apple, which pioneered smartphones and tablets, has lagged behind Amazon.com Inc., Alphabet Inc.'s Google and Microsoft Corp.in AI. Given the rise of home speakers and the public's increasing comfort with speaking to a disembodied AI voice, Apple will want to catch up with its rivals to improve Siri's abilities.

Giannandrea's hiring comes as Apple has recently faced criticism for Siri, the AI-based personal assistant built into products like Macs, iPhones, iPads, the Apple TV, and the HomePod. Some believed that top AI talent was avoiding Apple because of that data protection policy.

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His appointment will feed directly in to the development of Apple's smart assistant Siri - which is popularly considered to fare poorly compared with others developed by Silicon Valley rivals.

While Google has a "deep bench" in AI, the move is still a loss for Google and a win for Apple. On the contrary, the company didn't even publish AI research until 2016, a common practice among AI researchers at Facebook and Google.

Apple, although the pioneer of personal virtual assistants with the likes of Siri, now lacks access to data as well as research talent to succeed in AI development.

On the debate over whether humanity should be anxious about the rapidly accelerating improvements in A.I., Mr. Giannandrea told MIT Technology Review in an interview previous year that the concerns were overblown.

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