Apple buys AI firm and introduces support for Google Assistant

Apple has reportedly acquired Silk Labs, a start-up that works on applying artificial intelligence (AI) technology in the field of personal assistants for smart home devices and smartphones.

One report claims that the little-advertised deal for an undisclosed price is an attempt to boost Apple’s AI abilities as far as smart home devices are concerned. Silk Labs has around a dozen employees and a market capital of nearly $4m.

The report further states that Silk Labs was established by Andreas Gal, Mozilla’s former Chief Technical Officer, who is also the creator of the Firefox OS mobile platform. His partner in Silk Labs is Michael Vines, formerly of Qualcomm.

Apple is clearly determined to boost its AI-enabled devices such as HomePods, which currently lag behind Google Home and Amazon Alexa. Google and Amazon claimed about 70% of the worldwide smart speaker market in Q1 2018, while Apple only sold 600,000 HomePods during this period – less than 10% of the estimated 9.2 million unit market.

In other Apple-related news, the latest update for Google Assistant on iOS now makes it quite easy for iPhone users to use Google’s voice-enabled digital assistant. The update introduces support for Siri Shortcuts, enabling iPhone users to ask Google Assistant to carry out specific tasks – though they still have to do it via Siri.

The way it works is that you say, for example, “Hey Siri, get Google.” This will instruct Siri to load Google’s AI assistant. It’s a bit clumsy, and definitely ironic to use one digital assistant to load another one, but some users adore the new feature.

The fact is that Google’s digital assistant is definitely more refined than Apple’s Siri right now – mainly because of the massive amount of customer and internet search data to which the latter has access.

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