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Apple Bought an AI Startup: What to Know About Its AI Plans

 Apple Bought an AI Startup: What to Know About Its AI Plans

It’s no secret that Apple is late to the generative artificial intelligence party, with ChatGPT and competitors from Microsoft and Google already on the market. But its entry to the gen AI sphere could be coming soon: on Thursday, Bloomberg reported that earlier this year, Apple acquired DarwinAI, a Canadian startup. 

DarwinAI is best known for its work in making AI systems smaller and faster. It also worked on AI technology for visually inspecting components during manufacturing. Apple has already integrated dozens of DarwinAI’s employees into the company, including co-founder Alexander Wong, according to Bloomberg. 

Apple didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment and has yet to announce the purchase, but it did tell Bloomberg that it “buys smaller technology companies from time to time.” 

However, the signs are all there. DarwinAI’s social media accounts and official website have been shut down, and Wong’s LinkedIn account shows that he started at Apple as the director of machine learning research in January 2024.

Apple’s plans for DarwinAI

The big question, though, is what Apple plans to do with DarwinAI. According to MacRumors, Apple purchased 32 AI startups throughout 2023, which makes DarwinAI the latest in a long list of similar acquisitions. Aside from Apple GPT, an AI chatbot that Apple reportedly uses internally, the company has been tight-lipped about its AI plans.

The company has been teasing plans that could be AI-related, though. CEO Tim Cook told investors during a quarterly earnings call in February that Apple “has some things that we’re incredibly excited about that we’ll be talking about later this year.” During that same call, Cook said Apple’s modus operandi “has always been to do work and then talk about work, and not to get out in front of ourselves, so we’re going to hold on to that.”

For now, the company’s use of AI in existing products is limited to the Apple Vision Pro and several AI-powered features in iOS 17, including AI smarts in the iPhone camera and the ability to digitally clone your voice. Given DarwinAI’s experience with making AI systems smaller and faster, an educated guess would be that the company’s technology will help add more AI features to iOS 18.

Apple’s next OS is expected to be a significant upgrade over iOS 17. Cook teased AI and generative AI already, with rumors circulating that Apple has instructed engineers to create as many AI features as possible. If the iPhone 16 ends up being a minor upgrade, as some rumors suggest, then iOS 18 may even become the bigger story for Apple in 2024. We’ll almost certainly learn more in June during Apple’s WWDC, where Apple typically previews the next version of iOS. 

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