Apple Vision Pro headset unveiling showcased a multitude of artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities. Still, it notably left out the revolutionary generative AI application adopted widely by competitors such as Google and Microsoft.
This despite the launch of Apple’s technologically advanced VR headset. It boasts over 20 cameras, sensors, microphones, along with two processing chips. Despite all this Apple remained silent about the generative AI revolution that has sparked wide-scale discussions, regulatory calls, and even strikes among Hollywood writers.
Apple’s Silence on Generative AI
Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) keynote address lasted two hours, primarily focusing on announcing new features powered by its neural engine hardware. Features included a call screening service that transcribes the first few words of a live voicemail, enabling the recipient to decide whether to take the call or not. However, Apple’s silence on generative AI was conspicuous, with the closest mention being an updated feature in iOS 17 suggesting the next word for users when typing on an iPhone keyboard.
Speculations on Apple’s Stance
Rumors about Apple’s position regarding generative models circulated in the run-up to WWDC. These speculations intensified following Apple’s string of generative AI-related job advertisements, concurrent with several significant announcements from Apple’s key competitors. Google and Microsoft have both advanced in the generative AI space recently, with Google integrating conversational AI Bard with Adobe Firefly, and Microsoft extending OpenAI’s ChatGPT and GPT-4 into Bing, Azure cloud offerings, and Project Helix by DELL together with NVIDIA respectively.
The Generative AI Gap
Matt Turck, an investor at FirstMark Capital, considered Apple’s omission of generative AI a strategic marketing move, emphasizing the Vision Pro. Turck suggests that Apple’s strategy to not attempt to play catch up with rivals like Microsoft and Google in the generative AI space is smart, considering it currently lags in this aspect. He asserts that Apple has chosen to carve out its own path in AI rather than chase others.
Generative AI and Apple’s Future
Generative AI could be used to enhance Apple’s offerings significantly, such as making Siri more conversational or giving Apple Pages a competitive edge with auto suggestions, akin to Google Docs and Microsoft Word. Image-generating AI could potentially accelerate the metaverse creation.
Apple’s Unique Focus
Apple seems to prioritize delivering high-end hardware over joining the complicated and specialized generative AI race, according to Micaela Mantegna, an AI ethics and gaming expert. Mantegna suggests this may be why Apple refers to its Vision Pro headset as a spatial computing device and steers clear of the term ‘metaverse,’ which has been tainted by Meta’s underperformance.
The Potential of Generative AI
Generative models in immersive environments like the metaverse make it possible to learn user preferences and modify experiences for the sake of monetization, says Mantegna. While Meta has already started testing generative AI for advertising, Apple continues to prioritize user privacy and security, an aspect underlined by Mike Rockwell, Apple’s VP, in his WWDC presentation.
Privacy Implications and Reputation Concerns
Despite the allure of personalized experiences, privacy advocates warn that the vast amounts of personal data collected by AR and VR headsets can enable invasive experiences. They draw comparisons with internet cookies used to sell ads or services. Furthermore, augmented reality headset sellers’ poor reputation may also play a significant role in Apple’s generative AI stance, following a December 2021 survey indicating low trust levels in Facebook among US consumers.
The Surprise in Apple’s Silence
Jeremiah Ratican, an assistant professor at Lindenwood University, expressed surprise at Apple’s silence on generative AI, particularly considering Microsoft’s rapid integration of ChatGPT into its product line. As the first widely accepted AI assistant, Siri‘s lack of generative tech emphasis seems odd, he notes. Ratican hypothesizes that Apple may have been caught off guard by ChatGPT’s swift adoption, hence the focus on its investment in AR technology with the new Vision Pro headset.