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Report says Apple’s mixed reality headset team wanted to replace Siri

Published Apr 27th, 2023 1:28PM EDT
Apple HomePod 2023 Siri
Image: Christian de Looper for BGR

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A new report by The Information reveals that even Apple’s own employees aren’t impressed by Siri. “Organizational dysfunction and a lack of ambition” are some of the issues more than three dozen former Apple employees that worked in its AI and machine learning groups shared with the publication.

This report is similar to another story shared by The New York Times, which explains how “clunky” Siri is and how its cumbersome design makes it time-consuming to add new features. The Information claims that, over the years, Apple has lost Siri engineers to Google so they could work on large language models (LLMs), which is the technology behind Google Bard and ChatGPT.

With the personal assistant lacking new features, in addition to it being years behind the competition, the team behind the upcoming mixed reality headset even thought about replacing Siri due to its poor usability:

For example, the team building Apple’s mixed-reality headset, including its leader Mike Rockwell, has expressed disappointment in the demonstrations the Siri team created to showcase how the voice assistant could control the headset, according to two people familiar with the matter. At one point, Rockwell’s team considered building alternative methods for controlling the device using voice commands, the people said (the headset team ultimately ditched that idea).

One of the biggest concerns over Siri is due to Apple’s focus on privacy. Making requests stay on devices holds back the possibility of a smarter personal assistant. In addition, to prevent embarrassing responses, Apple’s CEO Tim Cook and other senior executives prefer Siri’s responses to be pre-written by a team of around 20 writers instead of being AI-generated.

Another interesting tidbit regards a Blackbird project in 2019, which wanted to rewrite the virtual assistant from scratch. This project competed with another one called Siri X, which aimed to move Siri’s processing on-device for privacy reasons. Siri X was mostly complete in 2021. During this time, employees working on Blackbird were assigned to this other project, which gives us a clear picture of why Siri’s development is so slow compared to other personal assistants.

The whole story is worth a read, but it’s behind a paywall.

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.