Apple debuts new ‘Apple Intelligence’ AI features at WWDC 2024

Tim Cook, the Apple CEO, announced a series of generative artificial intelligence products and services on Monday during his keynote speech at the company’s annual developer conference, WWDC.

The new tools mark a major shift toward AI for Apple, which has seen slowing global sales over the past year and integrated fewer AI features into its consumer-facing products than competitors.

“It has to understand you and be grounded in your personal context like your routine, your relationships, your communications, and more. It’s beyond artificial intelligence. It’s personal intelligence,” said Cook. “Introducing Apple Intelligence.”

The company also announced an updated operating system for its Vision Pro headset. The virtual reality device, which has only been available in the US since its release in February, will become available in China, Japan, Singapore, Australia, Canada, France and the United Kingdom in the next two months.

Apple said it would adopt Rich Communication Services to improve messaging between iPhones and other smartphones as well as expanding customization options for iMessage. Phones running Google’s Android operating system have long employed the messaging protocol. More incremental updates included a redesigned photos app, hiking maps in Apple Maps, tweaks to the Wallet app, customization options for texting, and texting via satellite in locations without cell tower connections.

While the boom in generative AI in recent years has led tech giants such as Google to revamp their core services, Apple had until now held off from incorporating the technology into its flagship products. The company’s lack of generative AI tools has been a consistent source of consternation among analysts and investors over the previous year as they expressed concern that Apple seemed to be playing catch-up in the AI race.

As pressure grew on Apple to provide some form of new AI offering, the company began discussing partnerships and eyeing ways of updating tools like Siri, its voice assistant that debuted in 2011. After Cook promised shareholders last month that Apple was making “significant investments” into artificial intelligence, Bloomberg reported that the company was finalizing a deal with OpenAI to integrate the startup’s technology into its devices.

Apple’s stock has rallied in recent months as investors waited to see what the company would unveil. Apple has struggled this year with weakening global demand for its iPhone, reporting another overall drop in revenue during an earnings call last month. An antitrust lawsuit in the US, a canceled electric vehicle project and a lack of public fanfare for the expensive Vision Pro have additionally dogged the company.

Other tech firms have meanwhile seen their stock market value rise as they emphasized investments into artificial intelligence, with Apple’s rival Microsoft beating analyst’s expectations this year as its revenue and share price grew. The AI chipmaker Nvidia hit a $3tn stock market valuation last week, overtaking Apple to become the world’s second most valuable public company.

Although Apple has been reluctant to debut a marquee AI product, it has been quietly building up its artificial intelligence capabilities and investments for years. It has acquired several AI startups, reallocated employees to work on artificial intelligence and is setting up an AI research lab in Zurich.

The Guardian

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