A new report sheds light on the AI industry, with Apple the top company for acquiring AI startups.
According to GlobalData, Apple, Google, Facebook and Microsoft bought 60 AI companies between 2016 and 2020, 25 of those purchases by Apple. Improving Siri is likely a driving motivator behind the purchases.
“The US is the leader in AI, and the dominance of US tech giants in the list of top acquirers also indicate that these companies have some defined AI objectives,” said Nicklas Nilsson, Senior Analyst on the Thematic Research Team at GlobalData. “For instance, Apple has been ramping up its acquisition of AI companies, with several deals aimed at improving Siri or creating new features on its iPhones. Machine learning start-up Inductiv was acquired to improve Siri’s data, Irish voice tech start-up Voysis was bought to improve Siri’s understanding of natural language, and PullString should make Siri easier for iOS developers to use.
“Apple has gone on a shopping spree in efforts to catch up with Google (Google Assistant) and Amazon (Alexa). Siri was first on the market, but it consistently ranks below the two in terms of ‘smartness’, which is partly why Apple is far behind in smart speaker sales. Apple also want to make sure to keep its strong position within wearables. It is the dominant player in smartwatches. The acquisition of Xnor.ai last year was made to improve its on-edge processing capabilities, which has become important as it eliminates the need for data to be sent to the cloud, thereby improving data privacy.”
Apple has rolled Siri out across its lineup of devices, making it more important than ever for the virtual assistant to be as good, or better, than its rivals.
The rumored Apple Car is likely another reason why the company is investing so heavily in AI. With self-driving cars viewed as the next evolution of the automobile, Apple needs to ensure its AI technology is up to whatever plans it has.