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Apple embarks on AI recruitment drive to beef up search: report

Cupertino poaches machine learning talent, but may be hampered by own privacy policy

Handsets, Mobility, Mobility applications, Artifical intelligence, Apple Incorporated

Apple is actively recruiting from the field of artificial intelligence in an attempt to beef up its Internet search credentials on mobile devices, Reuters reported, citing "a review of hiring sites" and "numerous sources".

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The Cupertino-based iPhone-maker is in the process of hiring some 86 people with PhDs in machine-learning, which covers algorithmic fine-tuning of performance by software based on historic or real-time data. For example, a user's smartphone might advise them to leave early for an appointment based on traffic reports.

However, Apple may be hampered in competing with rivals such as Google and Facebook, because of its own policies on user privacy that lead the company to do much of its user-data analysis in isolation, on an individual's iPhone or iPad.

The data Apple collects, through cloud connections with iDevices, could be used to provide AI-based services, but only if the company collates all of its cloud-stored user data and allows it to be exposed to machine-learning algorithms.

"They want to make a phone that responds to you very quickly, without knowledge of the rest of the world," said Joseph Gonzalez, co-founder of Dato, a machine-learning start-up. "It's harder to do that."

Tomorrow Apple will launch a fresh range of iPhones and the latest version of iOS, which is expected to take a step forward in the area of intelligent reminders in an effort to compete with Google's Android. Apple's Siri, which it acquired in 2010, has a measure of intelligence built in, but there is a general belief among industry pundits that the iAssistant has been surpassed by similar systems offered by Google and Microsoft.

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As Apple battles rivals for AI talent, some academics believe machine-learning scientists could be attracted to the challenge of beating Google at its own game without taking its casual attitude towards data privacy.