Apple hires former Google AI chief John Giannandrea

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The company hired Google's top AI exec, John Giannandrea, to lead Apple's artificial intelligence strategy, The New York Times reports.

Thousands of Google employees have signed on to a letter demanding that the company withdraw from its work on a Pentagon project that builds machine learning technology that could be used for drone warfare. (However, it is a pared-down version from the Siri that lives on your iPhone.) Google Assistant is now far more capable of understanding the world around it, despite being launched five years later.

It's widely known that Apple's Siri loses a face-off against Google Assistant or even Alexa by Amazon, but things are about to change.

John Giannandrea, who is affectionately called colleagues, was absorbed by Google when the search giant bought Metaweb. Apple has long aimed to improve its algorithms without compromising its privacy policy, and the hire is one step closer to that goal.

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Giannandrea's contribution to Google includes the development of the Ask Jeeves-style functionality that now enables Google search to provide more precise responses to user questions.

A machine learning expert, John Giannandrea devised technologies that helped AI shape the way various Google services came to evolve over time. The New York Times reports that Giannandrea will report directly to Apple CEO Tim Cook, and has left his previous role to be split between two roles, one dedicated to search and one to AI.

Talking about the future of the technology, John Giannandrea also mentioned the possibility of personalized "pervasive computing", where the capacities of the computer to assist humans would be infused in the entire environment rather than shrinking into the mobile phones. Given the rise of home speakers and the public's increasing comfort with speaking to a disembodied AI voice, Apple will want to catch up with its rivals to improve Siri's abilities. He's now in charge of Google's entire AI unit and will now focus on how AI will be implemented across its products.

It should be noted that engineers with AI expertise are highly sought after in Silicon Valley, and Apple has made a number of high profile hirings of late in the AI field.