According to those in the know (via The Verge, citing a paywalled report at The Information), Apple has teams working on conversational AI (read: chatbots), image-generating AIs, and ‘multimodel AI’ which would be a hybrid of the others – being able to create video, images and text responses to queries.
These AI models would have a variety of uses, including supporting Apple Care users as well as boosting Siri’s capabilities.
Currently, the most sophisticated large language model (LLM) Apple has produced is known as Ajax GPT. It’s reportedly been trained on over 200 billion parameters, and is claimed to be more powerful than OpenAI’s GPT-3.5; this was what ChatGPT used when it first became available to the general public in 2022, though Open AI has since updated its service to GPT-4.
As with all rumors, we should take these reports with a pinch of salt. For now, Apple is remaining tight-lipped about its AI plans, and much like we saw with its Vision Pro VR headset plans, it won’t reveal anything official until it’s ready – if it even has anything to reveal.
The idea of Apple developing its own alternative to ChatGPT isn’t exactly far-fetched though – everyone and their dog in the tech space is working on AI at the moment, with Google, Microsoft, X (formerly Twitter), and Meta just a few of those with public AI aspirations.
Don’t expect to see Apple AI soon
We should bear in mind that polish is everything for Apple; it doesn’t release new products until it feels its got everything right, and chatbots are notoriously the antithesis of this philosophy. So much so that AI developers have a term – ‘to hallucinate’ – to describe when AI chatbots are incorrect, incoherent, or make information up, because they do it embarrassingly frequently. Even ChatGPT and the best ChatGPT alternatives are prone to hallucinating multiple times in a session, and even when you aren’t purposefully trying to befuddle them.
We wouldn’t be too surprised if some Apple bots started to trickle out soon, though – even as early as next month. Something like its Apple Care AI assistant would presumably have a fairly simple task of matching up user complaints with a set of common troubleshooting solutions, patching you through to a human or sending you to a real-world Apple store if it gets stumped. But something like its Ajax GPT? We’ll be lucky to see it in 2024; at least not without training wheels.
If given as much freedom as ChatGPT, Ajax could embarrass Apple and erode our perception of the brand for delivering finely-tuned and glitch-free products out of the box. The only way we’ll see Ajax soon is if AI takes a serious leap forward in terms of reliability – which is unlikely to happen quickly – or if Apple puts a boatload of limitations on its AI to ensure that it avoids making errors or wading into controversial topics. This chatbot would likely still be fine, but depending on how restricted it is, Ajax may struggle to be taken seriously as a ChatGPT rival.
Given that Apple has an event on September 12 – the Apple September event, at which we’re expecting it to reveal the iPhone 15 handsets, among other products – there’s a slim chance we could hear something about its AI soon. But we wouldn’t recommend holding your breath for anything more than a few Siri updates.
Instead, we’d recommend keeping your eye on WWDC over the next few years (the company’s annual developer’s conference) to find out what AI chatbot plans Apple has up its sleeves. Just don’t be disappointed if we’re waiting until 2025 or beyond for an official update.