During an artificial intelligence conference in Spain earlier this week, Apple’s newly hired director of AI research seems to have indicated that Apple is ready to start publishing papers on artificial intelligence research.
According to a Bloomberg report, one of Ruslan “Russ” Salakhutdinov’s slides from a presentation was posted to Twitter by one of the attendees at the Neural Information Processing Systems in Barcelona. The photo shows the slide with the text: “Can we publish? Yes. Can we engage with academia? Yes.”
Although no comment was forthcoming from Apple regarding this, the news of this slide has given rise to speculation that Apple Inc. has now opened up to the possibility of publishing their AI research findings. In the absence of a formal statement or until their first paper is published, we can only assume that they have, in fact, made a change to their policy on publishing research papers.
There are multiple benefits to Apple doing this, the first of which is freedom for their AI team to communicate with their peers outside the company. Apple has kept a tight leash on information leaving its labs; it is merely an extension of their entire policy of secrecy around whatever they create. That’s part of the lure of Apple products – keep everyone on tenterhooks and then awe them in style.
The sharing of information will help their team feed off the findings of their peers in the industry, and quite possibly speed up their own progress by bartering ideas and sharing best practices.
But there’s another upside to this as well. Until now, Apple has found it extremely hard to hire top talent in the various specialty areas of AI because of their strict ban on publication. To counter that, Apple has been forced to go the acquisition route to build their talent pool, buying up companies like Turi Inc.
The upside could now come in the form of a more open AI community within Apple, which means they’ll be able to attract the right type of talent they need to beef up their now-weak presence in the AI space.
When Apple first launched Siri back in 2011, it seemed like they had a head start on everyone else. But then, along came Alexa and Google Assistant (its earlier avatars) and Cortana, while Siri practically stayed put where she was.
Secrecy, in this case, has hurt more than helped Apple.
But if this new bit of news does, in fact, indicate a formal change of policy, it bodes well for the future of Apple’s artificial intelligence push. They are still way behind, and it will possibly take a while before the acquisitions and this new turn of events to bear fruit. But this is, indeed, a great step in the right direction.
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