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Apple Launches Machine Learning Journal

Apple, which had been known for its iron-clad secrecy, now plans to publish its leading-edge machine learning research to a publicly accessible website.

The iPhone maker has launched what it calls the Machine Learning Journal where those interested in the topic can read posts to see how Apple engineers are "using machine learning technologies to help build innovative products for millions of people around the world."

The first article posted on the site is called "Improving the Realism of Synthetic Images," which examines how to train neural networks to properly identify faces and different objects in photographs. However, this is a long and complex undertaking, which lead Apple engineers to use synthetic images to help with this process. The engineers then refined those images to make them look as realistic as possible.

While Apple executives, and especially CEO Tim Cook, have talked publicly about using machine learning and artificial intelligence in developing new products, a website with serious research shows how important and integral this technology is to the company's future. (See Is Apple's Car 'The Mother of All AI Projects'?.)

A screen shot from Apple's first published paper on machine learning
(Source: Apple)
A screen shot from Apple's first published paper on machine learning
(Source: Apple)

Apple is also making machine learning and AI part of its acquisition strategy. Earlier this year, the company confirmed that it had acquired an under-the-radar startup called Lattice Dark, which specializes is using machine learning and data analytics to analyze "dark data." (See Apple Quietly Acquires Machine Learning Specialist Lattice Dark.)

At the same time, Apple is making up for some lost time as it has watched its closest competitors jump into the machine learning and AI space to not only show off their engineering prowess, but to capture "mindshare" within this market as well.

Earlier this month, Microsoft announced that it would create an AI research lab to conduct work in this field and help develop commercial applications of the technology. (See Microsoft Establishes New AI Research Lab.)

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At nearly the same time, Alphabet -- the parent company of Google -- launched a new subsidiary dubbed Gradient Ventures. Its mission is to invest in AI startups. (See Alphabet Launches Investment Fund for AI Startups.)

With its machine learning site, Apple is trying to get in on some of that mindshare as well. In addition, the company is looking for talent to make these machine learning and AI visions a reality. As TechCrunch points out, at the bottom of the website, there's a link to various job posts at Apple.

A recent report knocking IBM's AI and cognitive computing efforts noted that Big Blue is in a race for talent and is losing out to other, more nimble firms in this space. (See IBM Watson Faces Tough Road – Analyst.)

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— Scott Ferguson, Editor, Enterprise Cloud News. Follow him on Twitter @sferguson_LR.

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kq4ym 7/29/2017 | 7:43:46 AM
Re: Apple Intersesting to see Apple come out with the AI publication. It would not only be an interesting read, but a good recruiting tool and public relations item in the competitive and popular AI arena.
Susan Fourtané 7/28/2017 | 2:14:01 AM
Re: Apple I believe it has been effective. Also, I think that the fact that Apple is now following the model is the best indicator that the strategy works. Otherwise, Apple would have never wasted its time launching the Machine Learning Journals in hopes to attract talent and startups in the AI field.
[email protected] 7/27/2017 | 1:19:46 PM
Re: Apple Yes, Susan, I was wondering if they found it an effective recruiting tool! In today's competitive tech market anything that attracts talent is worthwhile.
Susan Fourtané 7/26/2017 | 2:06:10 PM
Re: Apple In hiring talent, you mean? I imagine it has. I don’t know how many people they have hired since then. I know they have successful and innovative teams working in great projects, though.
[email protected] 7/25/2017 | 1:05:51 PM
Re: Apple Interesting I didn't hear about Airbus. I know this is prominent in other areas that have developer access sites in an effort to share and encourage collaboration. Has the effort with Airbus been successful?
Susan Fourtané 7/25/2017 | 8:30:42 AM
Re: Apple Daniel – Apple’s advances in AI are showing in Siri, which is the first contact one can have with Apple’s AI efforts. Siri has had lots of improvements since its beginnigs. I have fluid conversation with Siri and find him (yes, my Siri is an Englishman :) really useful in many occasions. Apple is going to deploy improved AI not only in all the devices but also in an autonomous car, AppleHome, and other applications.
Susan Fourtané 7/25/2017 | 8:17:32 AM
Re: Race for talent Scott – Yes. I have to admit that it surprised me from Apple. Not long ago I said that if Apple was working on something big they were going to keep it secret. What I am guessing is that perhaps Apple has seen that the strategy is working well for Airbus and others, and wanted to give it a go. They might have seen that the best talent goes the Airbus way and not to Apple, for example, so they may have opened up for that reason among others. Because, another reality is that Millennials are looking for job opportunities is a different way than previous generations did. That’s another reason Apple perhaps has considered. So, just one post for now. I am really looking forward to seeing what else comes out from this new experiment from Apple.
danielcawrey 7/24/2017 | 6:09:01 PM
Re: Apple This is certainly not part of the Apple playbook. But while it could take a long time for there to be "wow" or "magic" type of Apple AI, this journal allows early adopters to be satiated. I would not be surprised if Apple will want to court 3rd part developers in the future for its AI platform. Maybe this is a step towards that. 
Scott_Ferguson 7/24/2017 | 2:04:57 PM
Re: Race for talent @Susan: All very good points, and what makes its interesting is that it's Apple doing this, which kind of validates the while process. It also shows that Apple is starting to change and not rely on its secrecy and marketing to create a future for the company. 
Susan Fourtané 7/24/2017 | 9:19:11 AM
Re: Apple Maryam – No, it’s not really a novel concept to attract talent. I would say Apple came a bit late into this strategy. Airbus has been doing this exact thing since the beginning of January. So Apple is more than six months behind in this way of attracting talent to its pool. Perhaps they have been deliberating and considering if Apple was willing to expose their engineering efforts publicly in the way Airbus and others were already doing.
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