It seems as though everyone but Apple is jumping on the AI bandwagon, but according to a report, that might not be the case for very long. As uncovered by 9to5Mac in the tvOS 16.4 beta, Apple is testing new language generation AI capabilities for Siri. The technology, code-named “Bobcat,” is very limited in scope right now, but could eventually expand to greater capabilities and devices.
A recent New York Times report explained how the original trio of AI assistants—Siri, Google Assistant, and Alexa—are very limited in their capabilities and have been soundly surpassed by generative AI based on large language models like ChatGPT. ChatGPT’s capabilities have captured the imagination of the tech community and, together with generative AI like Midjourney, Dall-E, and Stable Diffusion, have inspired something of a gold rush for generative artificial intelligence. The New York Times mentioned that, according to its sources, “Many engineers, including members of the Siri team, have been testing language-generating concepts every week.”
Now it seems that 9to5Mac has discovered that Apple has enabled a new framework for “Siri Natural Language Generation” in the latest tvOS 16.4 beta.
One shouldn’t expect this new “Bobcat” language generation AI to necessarily be something like ChatGPT, but will more likely be a way to enhance the capabilities of Siri. Currently, the technology is reportedly only enabled when asking Siri to tell jokes on Apple TV with the latest tvOS 16.4 beta, but the report claims that “The company is experimenting with how language generation could be used for timers, as well.”
Is SiriGPT on the way?
It makes sense that Apple would test on tvOS—it’s a small controlled platform relative to iOS or macOS, and the HomePod (which relies almost exclusively on Siri interaction) runs a sort of modified version of tvOS. 9to5Mac says they have seen evidence that this code has been deployed across iPhone, iPad, Mac, HomePod, and Apple TV, but is only enabled on Apple TV and in a very limited fashion.
But don’t expect a chatbot like ChatGPT from Apple anytime soon. At least for now, Apple appears to be interested in using generative language AI technology to make Siri more natural and conversational, and perhaps to enable it to gracefully deliver answers or perform tasks that do not fit the narrowly prescribed conditions for which it has currently been programmed.
It’s reasonable to expect that, perhaps with the release of iOS 17 this fall or one of its point-release updates, Apple will tout a more natural and conversational Siri when performing specific tasks (we don’t think Apple’s going to stop at joke-telling). Those capabilities will likely expand as Apple works to ensure that its chat model is safe and accommodating for people of all ages and backgrounds, which has been a challenge for models like ChatGPT so far.