Apple Intelligence Will Infuse the iPhone With Generative AI

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Apple is finally getting into the generative artificial intelligence game—with a little help from an unlikely partner in OpenAI.

Apple CEO Tim Cook announced Apple’s long-awaited AI reboot at the company’s Worldwide Developer Conference in Cupertino, California, today. What the company is calling Apple Intelligence, available in beta this fall, includes a handful of features that will shape the iPhone, iPad, and Mac experiences in ways large and small. Apple also gave Siri, its currently-limited voice assistant, a significant generative AI overhaul.

The company also announced that it will incorporate outside AI models into its software, starting with OpenAI’s ChatGPT later this year, making clear that the experience will be opt-in only and won’t require a ChatGPT subscription. Siri will determine whether a query can benefit from accessing ChatGPT, and then ask for approval to share information with the model. Apple said it would tap into other AI models in the future as well.

“We’re excited to partner with Apple to bring ChatGPT to their users in a new way,” said OpenAI CEO Sam Altman in a statement. “Apple shares our commitment to safety and innovation, and this partnership aligns with OpenAI’s mission to make advanced AI accessible to everyone.”

Until now, Apple has been conspicuously absent from headlines about generative AI. Competitors like Google and Microsoft have rushed to embrace the technology ever since ChatGPT burst onto the scene in late 2022. Apple has apparently been biding its time, developing a comprehensive strategy that touches on many of its products and services.

Craig Federighi, senior vice president of software engineering at Apple, said the company’s new AI strategy will focus on privacy and security. In addition to stressing privacy-friendly, on-device AI use cases, Federighi introduced what the company calls Private Cloud Compute, a technology that claims to protect data even for more intensive AI tasks that necessitate the cloud. “Your data is never stored or made accessible to Apple,” he said.

Apple showed off Apple Intelligence across numerous apps. A feature called Writing Tools, available systemwide, can clean up your text for grammar and readability, and adjust the tone to be more friendly or more professional. Apple’s so-called Image Playground will let you create images across Apple like in Messages and Notes, including AI-generated images of contacts in three different styles: sketch, illustration, and animation. You’ll also be able to create custom emoji with generative AI, a feature Apple calls Genmoji. And an AI refresh to Siri will make the assistant better able to handle complex spoken commands and better able to search for information even if a command is ambiguous.

Apple will also offer smaller generative AI algorithms that run on devices. It says these algorithms will be snappier and better protect users’ data. The company will face a balancing act in emphasizing privacy and security while also pivoting to greater use of generative AI.

It had been widely rumored ahead of WWDC that Apple was working on a deal with OpenAI. On the face of it, Apple and OpenAI would seem particularly unlikely bedfellows. Apple tends to move cautiously and carefully when delivering new products, emphasizing attention to detail, obsession with the user experience, and stunning design. OpenAI is best known for throwing a powerful but experimental new AI technology into the world and watching what people do with it.

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