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Apple engineers are testing ChatGPT-like features for Siri

Published Mar 15th, 2023 11:21AM EDT
Apple HomePod 2023 Siri
Image: Christian de Looper for BGR

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When Siri was announced over a decade ago, its revolutionary function created a buzz around it, which Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa followed. While all these smart assistants can help people turn on/off lights, create reminders, or reply to easy tasks, they now have lost momentum compared to the next wave of AI-generated conversations, which OpenAI’s ChatGPT leads.

In the latest New York Times report, Brian X. Chen, Nico Grant, and Kare Weise write about the rise and fall of the assistants, including why Siri struggles with what sounds like regular tasks. John Burkey, a former Apple engineer who worked on the virtual assistant, said it had a “cumbersome design that made it time-consuming to add new features.”

In 2014, he was given the job of improving Siri. But since its database contains a gigantic list of words in nearly two dozen languages, its vast knowledge bade it “one big snowball,” as if someone wants to add a word to Siri’s database, “it goes in one big pile.”

With that in mind, Burkey explains that what seems like small updates, such as new phrases, would require rebuilding the entire database, which could take up to six weeks. More complex features like new search tools could take nearly a year – meaning Siri could never become a creative assistant like ChatGPT unless it’s completely rebuilt.

Besides how complex Siri has become, what’s interesting about this report regards Apple’s AI summit held last month. While BGR reported this event based on a Bloomberg story, NYT gives a bit more information by saying many engineers, including members of the Siri team, have been testing language-generating concepts every week.

While it’s unclear if Siri will ever get a revamp, it’s interesting to know that Apple engineers are actively working on improving the virtual assistant to make the jump from simple questions to understanding the context and adding a proper conversation.

José Adorno Tech News Reporter

José is a Tech News Reporter at BGR. He has previously covered Apple and iPhone news for 9to5Mac, and was a producer and web editor for Latin America broadcaster TV Globo. He is based out of Brazil.