Apple Reportedly Staffs Up Machine Learning Team

Apple is trying to hire at least 86 artificial intelligence and machine learning experts, according to Reuters. While proactive suggestions are one of iOS 9’s flagship features, the company wants to go further and make your smartphone smarter.

As a reminder, Apple has been playing catch up when it comes to providing a digital assistant in your phone. While Siri has pioneered the voice query interface, Google Now provides many smart features that aren’t available in iOS 8.

But here’s what’s coming in iOS 9: the search screen will suggest apps and contacts based on where you are and what you are doing. For instance, your iPhone may suggest games when you are at home and business apps when you are at work.

In Calendar and Mail, iOS will suggest recipients and event names based on your past events and emails. Another example, when your phone connects via Bluetooth to your car, your phone will suggest a playlist based on what you usually listen to when you drive.

Calendar will tell you when you should leave for your next meeting, and will suggest to add flights and reservations to your calendar. Finally, iPhone users can expect more from Siri as you will be able to ask to see photos of a birthday party and other things.

But it looks like Apple doesn’t want to stop there with today’s new hiring rumors. These machine learning engineers will have a tough job as Apple has stressed the importance of user privacy at WWDC in June. For example, Apple can’t analyze your iMessages to improves its personalized suggestions as iMessage is an encrypted protocol — the company never sees the content of your messages.

In the meantime, Google is still improving Google Now with a new upcoming feature called Google Now on Tap. In Android Marshmallow, users will be able get more information on what’s currently happening on your phone. For instance, you can long-press the home button to get the lyrics of the song playing in Spotify, to get reviews on a restaurant that your friend suggested in a text message and more.

Apple is slowly but surely getting there. In iOS 9, you will be able to set up reminders based on what’s on your screen using Siri (“remind me about this place when I get in my car”). You can expect more features like this in iOS 10. Let’s see how far Apple can go without compromising your privacy.