Rumors continue to swirl about Apple’s AI moves. This flows from Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman who reported that Apple is developing something called Apple GPT. It’s allegedly being tested internally among employees, with a wider rollout and Apple-esque unveiling to come next year.
As its name implies, this will be a Chat GPT-like conversational AI that operates across Apple devices. It could help you find the closest Korean BBQ, answer your question about metric-system conversions, or find something to watch on Apple TV. In other words, Siri’s job.
This begs the question of what will become of Siri if it’s challenged by a younger and faster counterpart. The TL;DR answer is that Apple’s longstanding and underperforming voice assistant could be taken out to the woodshed, or receive a GPT-based brain transplant.
All the above applies across Apple products – not just iPhone but integrations from CarPlay to Apple TV. But there’s one product where a decent voice assistant represents a make-or-break moment: Vision Pro. It could be dead on arrival if Siri is to be its brains and voice input.
Ambient & Automatic
Siri’s negative impact on Vision Pro isn’t just because the device could be a key piece of Apple’s long-game hardware mix, but because it’s particularly reliant on voice input. Though Vision Pro’s gesture-based inputs have been widely lauded, voice will also be a key part of the equation.
Beyond input modality, the AI that stands behind it has to be flawless. As a new (and quite expensive) product, Vision Pro already has the challenge of making itself feel comfortable and natural. So any voice-assistant failures are bound to disorient already-hesitant everyday users.
Backing up, one of AR’s promises is to provide ambient intelligence that assists users and makes them smarter as they move throughout their day. This includes visual search to identify and contextualize physical world objects – everything from style items to storefronts.
This moves away from AR’s fun and games (think: Pokémon Go and selfie lenses) to its utilitarian endpoints. That in turn makes AR more sustainable and sticky. We’ve already seen a glimpse of this through AR tools like Google Lens, but they’re mostly confined to 5-inch screens.
When AR evolves from handheld to headworn – which is gradually underway – these intelligence tools will become more ambient and automatic given that they’re hands (and keyboard) free. That line-of-sight orientation is where the “conversation” in conversational AI factors in.
In other words, because there’s no physical keyboard nor touch screen in Vision Pro, inputs will include voice. So when looking at the intersection of AR and AI, the latter will be the intelligence layer the former needs. And it will have to excel at natural language processing (NLP).
That brings us back to Siri, which isn’t up for the job that AR demands, at least in its current form. Sure it works for predictable system functions like timers and weather updates. But answering natural language questions – not to mention ambient intelligence – is above its pay grade.
Despite all this, Apple has been wary to kill Siri as it’s so embedded in its cross-device ecosystem. Moreover, Apple doesn’t have a replacement to justify the uprooting. That’s because AI and search aren’t Apple’s core competencies. Most Siri searches hand off to Google or Bing.
But that all changes now. With the rise of reliable AI that can be licensed from the likes of OpenAI, Apple has a clearer and more viable path to develop something that does its products justice. For a company known for such elegant UX, Siri has always been a throbbing Achilles heel.
So you could say that Apple has been waiting years for this moment. By developing a decent AI engine, it can elevate its native voice assistant to live up to its UX standards. This could engender Apple-esque polish across the board, finally unblemished by Siri’s shortcomings.
Add it all together and Siri’s days could be numbered. We’re surprised it lasted this long. If Siri were a standalone company without Apple’s reliance, the market would have spoken a long time ago. So its demise (or ground-up renovation) could ironically come in the oncoming age of AI.
Speaking of timing, a common refrain following Apple GPT rumors has been to slam Apple’s slow-walked AI. But as always, Apple will watch and learn as early movers endure the slings and arrows of new markets. That strategy won’t change for AR, AI, or any other emerging initials.