Apple Testing AI ‘Natural Language Generation’ for Siri: Report

Apple has started testing all-new AI-powered natural language generation features for Siri, according to a report from 9to5Mac.

Per the publication, Apple is actively testing the new technology, codenamed “Bobcat,” in the latest tvOS 16.4 beta that started rolling out to developers last week. The beta build enables a framework for a “Siri Natural Language Generation” feature, which is currently only being applied to telling jokes but Apple may start trialling it with timers as well in the future.

While 9to5Mac found the code for these new features in Apple’s operating systems for iPhone, iPad, and Mac as well, they aren’t enabled on any other platform as of yet. What’s more, even though tvOS powers both Apple TV and HomePod, the new Siri features are only available on the former.

That said, these findings suggest that Apple eventually plans to bring these improvements to Siri across all of its platforms.

As one former Apple engineer explained in a recent interview, Siri currently relies on a large-scale database to understand a finite list of questions and prompts, churning out canned responses for each.

Natural language generation capabilities, the likes of which have recently been seen in large language models like OpenAI’s newly launched GPT-4, would allow the voice assistant to interact more organically with users. This could give Siri, which has long struggled to keep up with rivals like Google Assistant, an edge over the competition and help Apple recapture some of the excitement it sparked when it first unveiled the product back in 2014.

The new features come after Apple recently held an employee-only AI event where the tech giant reportedly showcased its own large language model and other AI tools.

While Apple’s tests with natural language generation for Siri don’t necessarily mean that the company is working towards its own ChatGPT-like chatbot, they at least show that the company has started experimenting with this kind of generative AI.

There’s no official word yet on when we could see Apple roll out the new and improved Siri to the public, whether on tvOS or other platforms.

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