Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...

You can test Apple’s first big AI release right now, before iOS 18 rolls out

Published Feb 13th, 2024 1:03PM EST
iPhone 15 Plus Dynamic Island.
Image: Christian de Looper for BGR

If you buy through a BGR link, we may earn an affiliate commission, helping support our expert product labs.

Apple may have avoided the artificial intelligence (AI) hype last year, but it can’t afford to ignore it for one more iPhone cycle. We already have signs that AI will play a big part in the iPhone experience this year. First of all, there’s the flood of iOS 18 leaks that have been teasing new AI features. Then we have Tim Cook’s comments from Apple’s most recent earnings call a few days ago. The exec confirmed Apple AI announcements for later this year. 

Finally, we have actual proof that comes directly from Apple, confirming that the company is developing generative AI software like ChatGPT. Software engineers have published some of their research in the past few months. The last AI innovation came in the form of an AI photo editor like the kind you might already expect to see in iOS 18. After all, Google has a powerful AI editor for Android already. 

But Apple’s MGIE, short for MLLM-guided image editing, is a different kind of editor. It takes text-based commands to deliver your edits. This approach might be better than physically interacting with a photo to perform certain AI edits. MLLM stands for multimodal large language models. In this case, it means it allows input of text and images in prompts. 

While I’d expect to see something like MGIE in iOS 18, nothing is guaranteed. But you can already test Apple’s AI photo editor right now, without actually installing anything on your computer.

When news dropped that researchers from the University of California at Santa Barbara and Apple created MGIE, the only way to test the software was to install the open-source version of GitHub. That meant that, sure, you could run the AI editor on your computer after setting it up using the instructions on GitHub. But most people won’t want to do that. 

An example of Apple's MGIE AI photo editor in action.
An example of Apple’s MGIE AI photo editor in action. Image source: Hugging Face

Thankfully, the researchers have also set up a demo over on Hugging Face. As you can see in the example above, all you have to do is input an image and an instruction. 

The AI will then turn that instruction into a more detailed “expressive instruction.” I used an example on the website which shows an image of the base of the Eiffel Tower with this instruction: 

turn the day into night

If this sort of AI experience sounds similar, that’s because you might have done it already with ChatGPT, Gemini, or Copilot. You pick a photo, and you tell the AI what you need. 

Apple’s MGIE AI takes things one step further. Rather than just deploying the result, it takes the text prompt and enhances it so the same AI can then deploy the visual edits. Here’s the “expressive instruction:” 

If the day were to be turned into night in this image, the Eiffel Tower would be bathed in darkness, and the people walking on the street would be illuminated by the artificial lights from the tower. The overall atmosphere would be more mysterious and dramatic, as the daytime scene gives way to the night.

You can test Apple’s MGIE at this link by uploading your own photos and inputting your own instructions. 

Will we see the MGIE AI image editor in action in iOS 18? I think we probably will, but that’s just my opinion. Why work on such AI tech and not deploy it in software products as soon as it’s ready for commercial use? Again, Apple can’t afford to continue waiting. Its competitors are already deploying AI on their smartphones, and the Galaxy S24 is the best proof of that. 

Even if MGIE isn’t available in the first version of iOS 18, it should come down the road. I’m also sure that Apple will provide additional AI photo-editing tools to users.

I might not be a big fan of the fake photos you can manufacture on Android with AI, but I know others are. Apple will probably want to prove that its AI is as good as Google’s when it comes to quick photo edits. It’ll need to include some AI tools directly into the Photos app. 

Again, I’m speculating here. But considering what we’ve seen from OpenAI, Google, and Microsoft when it comes to AI, it only makes sense for Apple to try to at least match the AI services available elsewhere. Products like MGIE show Apple wants to do more than match rivals.

Will MGIE work on-device on the iPhone? Will it require more powerful hardware, like the iPhone 16 Pros are rumored to feature? It’s too early to say. 

Apple will unveil iOS 18 at WWDC 2024 in June. Whether its AI features leak in detail until then or not, you can still play with MGIE online right now.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.