WWDC2017: Apple gets serious about AI


From machine learning, virtual and augmented reality to new products and apps, Apple embraces artificial intelligence like never before, writes Izwan Ismail.

THE days of machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) are finally here. Gadgets understand you and offer things related to you or based on your liking.

This is Apple’s message at the Worldwide Developer Conference 2017 in San Jose, US last week.

The five-day event gave insight into how technology and machines have evolved tremendously and now learn from our behaviour and use the knowledge to offer things related to us, hence making our life easier.

During his keynote address to a crowd of 5,300 people, Apple head honcho Tim Cook unveiled the company’s new software and hardware, such as the iOS 11 and machines like the new iMac Pro, iPad Pro as well as the much anticipated smart speaker, HomePod.

Intelligent machines like the HomePod, for example, make us feel “at home”.

The HomePod is designed for voice control with an array of six microphones, so users can interact with it from across the room, even while loud music is playing.

Say, “Hey Siri, I like this song”, and HomePod and Apple Music become the musicologist, learning preferences from hundreds of genres and moods, across tens of thousands of playlists, and these music tastes are shared across devices.

Embedded in the HomePod is the Apple-designed A8 chip which provides the brains behind the advanced audio innovation. Automatic room-sensing technology allows HomePod to quickly learn its position in a room, whether it’s in a corner, on a table or in a bookshelf, and within seconds, is perfectly optimised to deliver an immersive music listening experience wherever it is placed;

Voice AIs like Siri can handle advanced searches within the music library, so users can ask questions like “Hey Siri, who’s the drummer?” or create a shared Up Next queue with everyone in the home. HomePod, Apple Music and Siri deliver the best music experience in the home and streams it ad-free directly to HomePod.

As a home assistant, devices like the HomePod is a means to send messages, get updates on news, sports and weather, and also control smart home devices by simply asking Siri to turn on the lights or close the shades. When away from home, HomePod is the perfect home hub, providing remote access and home automations through the Home app on iPhone or iPad.

The iOS 11 brings new experiences and hundreds of features to the iPhone and iPad this fall.

The new version gives better capability to the iPad, with powerful multitasking features, the Files app and more ways to use Apple Pencil.

Augmented reality is coming to hundreds of millions of iOS devices soon, with a new platform for developers to build apps that lets users add virtual content to real-world scenes.

As apps are the driving factor behind device usage and AR, Apple has introduced a new platform for developers to help bring quality AR experiences to the iPhone and iPad using an built-in camera, powerful processors and motion sensors in iOS devices. For example, the ARKit allows developers to tap into the latest computer vision technologies to build detailed and compelling virtual content on top of real-world scenes for interactive gaming, immersive shopping experiences, industrial design and more.


Siri is the most popular personal assistant in the world with more than 375 million active devices accessing it each month across 36 countries. Using the latest advancements in machine learning and AI, new male and female voices are more natural and expressive, adjusting intonation, pitch, emphasis and tempo while speaking, and can translate English words and phrases into Chinese, French, German, Italian and Spanish.

Siri extends beyond voice, using on-device learning to deliver more personal experiences and offers suggestions based on personal usage of Safari, News, Mail, Messages and more.

For example, Siri learns of topics or places a user is interested in while browsing Safari. These topics or places will be suggested when then user uses Mail, Messages and other apps.

iOS 11introduces a new way to help drivers stay more focused on the road with Do Not Disturb while driving. The iPhone can detect when you may be driving and automatically silence notifications.

Users have the option of sending an auto reply to contacts listed in Favourites to let them know they are driving and cannot respond until they arrive at their destination.

The watchOS 4 brings more intelligence and fitness features to Apple Watch. For example, the new Siri watch face displays the information users need most throughout the day using Siri intelligence.

And for people who like graphics, there’s now a kaleidoscope face and Toy Story characters to make the watch more interesting.

Besides machine learning and AI, Cook announced the most powerful Mac to date, the iMac Pro. It features a gorgeous 27-inch Retina 5K display, up to 18-core Xeon processors and up to 22 Teraflops of graphics computation into a stunning new grey enclosure.

This monster of a computer will only be available in December starting at US$4,999 (RM21,300).

Apple also updated its iMac line with up to three times more powerful graphics, faster processors, Thunderbolt 3, faster storage options and brighter Retina displays, and added a Retina 4K display and discrete graphics.

The company also refreshed its MacBook and MacBook Pro line with faster Kaby Lake processors.

The new MacBook features up to 50 per cent faster SSDs and supports up to twice the memory; the 15-inch MacBook Pro comes with more powerful discrete graphics; and the 13-inch MacBook Pro adds a new US$1,299 configuration.

Apple previewed its latest macOS High Sierra, the latest version of the world’s most advanced desktop operating system, delivering new core storage, video and graphics technologies that pave the way for future innovation on the Mac, coming this fall as a free software update in the Mac App Store.

The macOS High Sierra offers an all-new file system, support for High-Efficiency Video Coding and an updated Metal, Apple’s advanced graphics technology. The update includes refinements to Photos, Safari and Mail.

Source: New Straits Times

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