Apple acquisition could help Siri make sense of your data

If it wasn’t already clear that Apple is committed to improving AI, it is now. The tech giant has confirmed that it recently bought Lattice Data, a company that uses AI to make sense of unorganized “dark” data like images and text. It’s not discussing what it plans to do with its acquisition, but a TechCrunch source claims that Apple paid $ 200 million. It’s not a gigantic deal, then, but no small potatoes when only 20 engineers are making the leap. And if that same source is correct, it could be important for Siri — Lattice had reportedly been talking to tech firms about “enhancing their AI assistants.” But what does that mean, exactly?

AI assistants frequently depend on structured data to provide meaningful answers, such as the latest scores for your favorite team or your upcoming calendar events. It’s harder for them to parse the massive amounts of data you generate outside of those neat-and-tidy containers. Lattice could make that data usable, helping Siri handle more of your commands. Need to find some obscure piece of information? You might have a better chance of finding it.

That could be important in the long run, and not just for the usual voice commands on your iPhone or Mac. If you believe rumors, Apple may be close to unveiling a Siri-based speaker. While that device would be unlikely to benefit from any of Lattice’s know-how in the short term (certainly not at WWDC 2017), any eventual upgrades to Siri would improve its ability to compete against rivals like the Amazon Echo series or Google Home. Lattice may not sound like an exciting company on the surface, but its work could be crucial to Apple’s visions for the smart home and beyond.

Source: TechCrunch

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Apple acquisition hints at deep automation in iOS

You’ve had a number of built-in options to automate tasks on the Mac over the years, such as AppleScript and Automator, but you’ve had to turn to third-party apps like IFTTT to do similar things on iOS. You might not have to lean so much on outside help going forward, though. Apple has confirmed that it just acquired Workflow, an app that lets you easily run multi-step, multi-app tasks from your iPhone or iPad. You can upload your latest photo to a cloud service by pushing a button, for instance, or tell a family member when you expect to get home.

Unlike with many buyouts, Apple isn’t planning to shut Workflow down right away. The app is not only sticking around the App Store, but is now free. We wouldn’t count on it lasting forever (Apple eventually shut down HopStop, for instance), but Apple won’t necessarily disrupt your life for the sake of its long-term plans.

Neither Apple nor Workflow has outlined what they might do together, but there are a number of possibilities. On a basic level, it hints at the chance of built-in automation for some tasks in iOS — you might just tap a button to accomplish a number of tasks. That could be particularly appealing to iPad power users treating their tablet more like a computer. It may be helpful for home automation, too, by further streamlining control over all your appliances. Just don’t expect to see any Workflow features show up in iOS in the near future. Apple has likely already settled on the core features for iOS 11 by this point (WWDC is just a few months away), so any OS-level integration may have to wait until much later.

Source: TechCrunch

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