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Apple poaches another AI expert from Google for its ‘special projects’ group

April 5th, 2019 at 10:05 PM
Apple AI research

Google is apparently starting to become the farm team for Apple’s artificial intelligence work.

The iPhone maker has just poached another AI expert from the search giant — 34-year-old Ian Goodfellow, a rising star in the field who, in addition to Google, has also worked at the OpenAI lab backed by Elon Musk. His LinkedIn profile shows he’s now heading up machine learning in Apple’s secretive special projects group.

This follows a similar announcement we told you about last year, involving Apple’s hire of former Googler John Giannandrea, who used to be in charge of machine intelligence, research and search teams there. In all, Giannandrea spent eight years at Google, where he pushed to make AI more integral to products like Gmail and Google Assistant. He’s also Goodfellow’s former boss at Google.

Goodfellow, meanwhile, is known for his AI work related to what are called Generative Adversarial Networks, or GANs for short. As Business Insider points in a piece today about Goodfellow’s hire, which was reported first by CNBC, GANs have attracted a degree of notoriety for their relationship to the creation of so-called “deepfake” images and content.

His hire is also a reminder that while Google continues to enjoy a reputation among tech companies as one of the top, if not the top, collections of brilliant AI talent, Apple is not shying away from the cultivation of AI experts and researchers. On the contrary, despite the fact that Apple has been regarded as somewhat lagging when it comes to AI perhaps partly as an outgrowth of its strong privacy stance, the company still leans on AI magic for everything from its Photos app to facial recognition.

True, Apple has a mandate that flows right from the top which keeps it away from shady practices like collecting mountains of data on users the way other companies have, to which machine learning and AI algorithms can be applied — and valuable insights and other knowledge could be harvested from. But that doesn’t mean the company sees itself as out of the AI game completely, either. All of which is to say, it certainly be interesting to see the fruits of what Goodfellow’s hire will soon start producing at the company.

Andy is a reporter in Memphis who also contributes to outlets like Fast Company and The Guardian. When he’s not writing about technology, he can be found hunched protectively over his burgeoning collection of vinyl, as well as nursing his Whovianism and bingeing on a variety of TV shows you probably don’t like.

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