Is Apple shaking your Siri computer? It certainly seems that way. According to a report by The Information the last co-founder of the digital assistant, Tom Gruber, has left the company. This follows from the announcement earlier this month that Google's former artificial intelligence chief, John Giannandrea, will assume a new role as Apple's "head of machine learning and artificial intelligence strategy", overseeing Siri and other AI efforts. .
Gruber, along with Dag Kittlaus and Adam Cheyer, co-founded Siri Inc, the company that created the original Siri application and that Apple bought in 2010 for $ 200 million. Siri was featured on the iPhone 4s the following year, with its unique combination of voice recognition and "assistant" features that captivated critics. The honeymoon period lasted for a few years, but Siri has lost ground to rivals such as Alexa and Amazon's Google Assistant.
Kittlaus and Cheyer left Apple years ago and founded Viv Labs; another digital assistant startup that was purchased by Samsung in 2016 to help shape its Bixby functionality. Gruber, meanwhile, became head of the Siri Advanced Development Group. According to The Information will leave the company to pursue "personal interests in photography and conservation of the ocean". The same story also noted the departure of Apple's search chief, Vipul Ved Prakash, who joined the company in 2013 with the acquisition of his company Topsy, which joined Spotlight to search the web and social networks.
Several reports from Apple's Siri team have suggested that the company's digital assistant has been hampered by a lack of direction and conflicting interests. For example, since 2012, the team has been led by Bill Stasior, a former Amazon executive and search expert. Both The Information and The Wall Street Journal have suggested that this may have been a source of friction, since although Siri certainly uses search functionality, her ability to understand users it depends on a more basic discourse and language processing skills
Apple's decision to hire Giannandrea, who will oversee Siri but also Apple's Core ML software, may be a sign that these priorities are changing. As The Verge noted earlier this month, Giannandrea's background and previous work have focused on the understanding of natural language; possibly one of Siri's weakest abilities. It remains to be seen if Apple can switch to Siri in the next few years, but it seems that the changes are underway.