The Eagle-eyed folks at 9to5mac have spotted that Apple’s latest update to tvOS has some new AI functionality. The tvOS 16.4 Beta has a new framework for “Siri Natural Language Generation." This may seem like a strange starting point, but tvOS could be used as a testing ground for Apple’s more significant platforms.
While the potential uses for a chattier Siri are surely wide-ranging, Apple currently only uses the language-generating tech to tell its digital assistant jokes. Although only active on the Apple TV, the same code is also present on iPhones, iPads, MacBooks and the HomePod where it could have a larger impact.
How Siri fell behind ChatGPT
It is unclear whether Siri’s new sense of humor comes from an original Apple model or a pre-existing AI model like ChatGPT (you can integrate ChatGPT with Siri yourself) but what is certain is that in its current state, Siri is lagging behind.
It is easy to forget how long ago Siri was first introduced — all the way back with the iPhone 4s in 2011 — and its age is showing. In addition to being unable to perform several key functions, Siri has struggled to pick up different accents from around the world and its clunky code and dated model could prove an obstacle to any language-generating improvements.
As recently as iOS 15, Siri temporarily lost the ability to send emails and check voicemails. Speaking to the The New York Times, former Apple engineer John Burkey described simply adding new phrases to Siri’s database took up to six weeks.
Apple products are already using AI
Although it may not take the form of a chatbot, Apple has been using artificial intelligence on its devices for a while. The FaceID with a face mask iPhone feature and Crash Detection on the Apple Watch and iPhone are just two examples of this. And, of course, the iPhone uses computational photography just like all of the best phones to produce the best possible images.
These are however “narrow” AI examples, built for a dedicated purpose whereas the likes of ChatGPT are “general” AI designed to take on even unfamiliar tasks. A language-generating Siri would need to make this step up to be more useful.
Thanks to the release of the ChatGPT API, it has already reached a host of apps on Apple’s App store, so Apple is clearly playing catch up to the Microsoft-backed OpenAI.