Tim Cook says Apple will 'break new ground' in GenAI this year

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Apple CEO Tim Cook is promising that Apple will "break new ground" on GenAI this year.

Cook made the pronouncement during the company's annual shareholders meeting today, which came in the same week the company reportedly scuttled its multibillion-dollar, decade-long plan to build an EV. Some of the staff on the EV project were reassigned to work on various GenAI initiatives, according to multiple publications.

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Apple, unlike many of its Big Tech rivals, has been slow to invest in -- and ramp up -- GenAI.

During the company's Q1 earnings call, Cook said Apple was working internally with GenAI but that it was taking a slower, more deliberate approach to customer-facing incarnations of the technology. Indeed, Apple's only briefly mentioned GenAI in its recent press conferences and announcements, such as when it introduced new autocorrect and text prediction features in iOS last fall.

Bloomberg's Mark Gurman has reported that Apple is planning to upgrade Siri and iOS' built-in search tool, Spotlight, with GenAI models, with the goal of enabling both to answer more complex queries and handle sophisticated multi-turn conversations. Apple is also said to be exploring AI-powered features to allow users to automatically generate presentation slides in Keynote and playlists in Apple Music, as well as GenAI-powered coding suggestions in Xcode, the company's app development platform.

Some of these -- or none -- could arrive in the next versions of iOS, macOS and iPadOS, which are expected to be demoed at Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference this summer.

Perhaps telegraphing Apple's intensifying GenAI focus, engineers at the company have co-authored an increasing number of GenAI-related academic and technical papers. One describes a system that can generate animated 3D avatars from short videos. Another details Keyframer, a tool capable of animating still images.

Conspicuously, Apple's also published a slew of open source models and tools for developing GenAI-powered software in recent months.

Ferret, released in October, is a chatbot built on top of an existing open source model, Vicuna, while MGIE, released earlier this year, is a model that can modify images based on natural language commands.

Bloomberg reported in October that Apple was investing $1 billion a year to catch up on GenAI, including efforts like a proprietary large language model called Ajax and an internal chatbot known as Apple GPT -- and potentially even new hardware. The upcoming iPhone 16 models are rumored to be in line for a "significantly" upgraded Neural Engine, Apple's brand of custom on-device chip for accelerating AI processing.