Apple is on the hunt for generative AI talent

Apple, like a number of companies right now, may be grappling with what role the newest advances in AI are playing, and should play, in its business. But one thing Apple is confident about is the fact that it wants to bring more generative AI talent into its business.

The Cupertino company has posted at least a dozen job ads on its career page seeking experts in generative AI. Specifically, it's looking for machine learning specialists "passionate about building extraordinary autonomous systems" in the field. The job ads (some of which seem to cover the same role, or are calling for multiple applicants) first started appearing April 27, with the most recent of them getting published earlier this week.

The job postings are coming amid some mixed signals from the company around generative AI. During its Q2 earnings call earlier this month, CEO Tim Cook dodged giving specific answers to questions about what the company is doing in the area -- but also didn't dismiss it. While generative AI was "very interesting," he said, Apple would be "deliberate and thoughtful" in its approach. Then yesterday, the WSJ reported that the company had started restricting use of OpenAI's ChatGPT and other external generative AI tools for some employees over concerns of proprietary data leaking out through the platforms.

Those restrictions are not new nor unique to Apple. A number of companies -- tech and non-tech -- have spelled out similar restrictions. Some believe Apple's had its policy in place for a while.

But more third-party apps are bringing in generative AI elements -- it was only yesterday that OpenAI released its own ChatGPT iOS app -- and Apple is reportedly working on its own generative AI products, according to the WSJ. Hiring more generative AI experts could well be in aid of serving either, or both, of those ends.

We reached out to Apple earlier this week for a comment on the job postings but have not yet received a response.

The openings are in teams that include Integrated System Experience, Input Experience NLP, Machine Learning R&D and the Technology Development Group located across San Diego, the Bay Area and Seattle.

Some of the roles focus specifically on visual generative AI applications, for machine learning experts to work on "visual generative modeling to power applications across computation photography, image and video editing, 3D shape and motion reconstruction [and] avatar generation."

As we mentioned, it's unclear exactly what these hires would be working on -- new products or refreshing existing ones -- but the push to bring more generative AI talent to Apple shouldn't be too much of a surprise.

The company was an early mover in the world of consumer AI applications with the launch of Siri voice assistant on the iPhone 2011, and for years it had a reputation as one of the biggest technology companies identifying and recruiting AI talent -- from other companies, from startups and according to some, sometimes straight from university labs and PhD projects.

But while Apple has continued to build and enhance how it applies AI, more recently, it -- along with other leviathans like Google and Amazon -- have been viewed as falling behind in the latest wave of the technology. That wave, led by companies like (Microsoft-backed) OpenAI, Midjourney and Stability.AI and their advances in generative AI -- take simple verbal cues and returning detailed responses based on vast amounts of information knitted together.

Now we've seen a number of moves from those leviathans to catch up. Along with Google's launch of Bard and a wave of AI news out of its big I/O developer event, an article in March in the The New York Times detailed how Apple held an internal event to show off the work it was doing and tests teams were running in "language-generating concepts," large language models and other AI tools.

Apple being Apple, no doubt it will be looking to bring its own approach to the table. Much of the work that it's been doing so far with, for example, visual AI technology has been focused on on-device processing and privacy and building developer tools in aid of that.

Apple is hosting its developer-focused WWDC event next month, where people will be looking to see if it makes any announcements on the generative AI front. Alongside the expected launch of new software for the iPhone and iPad, many have projected that it will also finally be giving details about its highly anticipated AR/VR headset.