Leopard Sports Superb AI, Apple Doesn’t Mention It

The X logo for Mac OS 10.5You must have noticed that Leopard made it’s debut a few days back. It isn’t as obviously revolutionary as the first version of OS X, but introduces some nifty improvements. What’s gone relatively unnoticed is that Leopard sports what could be the most impressive practical use of artificial intelligence in OS history. Don’t believe me? I don’t blame you. After all, there’s been absolutely no mention of “AI” anywhere … here’s the rundown and the reasons.

Leopard’s Features

What struck me the most during the (somewhat silly) guided-tour was how prevalent AI based features had become. What was that? AI? There’s no AI! Yes there is, they just don’t call it that. Most of Apple’s software is now more enabled by the use of techniques, algorithms and general software categorized under artificial intelligence. Here’s an example list.

  • Alex — A new English male voice that uses advanced technologies to deliver natural breathing and intonation, even at fast speaking rates.
  • Misspelled Word Detection — Hear when a word is misspelled while reading text. Choose a tone or a spoken description.
  • iChat’s Computer Vision — iChat can learn the difference between the user and background, and visually integrate a user into a given picture or video
  • Data Detectors — Mail automatically detects text fragments like appointments and addresses, and lets you choose smart actions (the guided tour shows Mail understanding which date the sentence “This Tuesday” refers to).
  • Apple Mail analyzes and understands natural language references to dates

  • Improved Search — Smarter relevance ranking in Spotlight.
  • Spotlight Language Support — More language support. A new Chinese tokenizer intelligently parses the search characters to factor in their relationship and meaning with one another. Also improved support for German and Thai and faster indexing in Japanese. (They actually mention intelligence in this description)
  • Dynamic Web Filter — Automatically tries to detect inappropriate content and prevents those web pages from appearing.
  • Advanced Searches — The Spotlight search field now supports Boolean logic, search category labels such as “author” or “width.”, The use of ranges in your search including “greater than” and “less than.” plus it understands quoted phrases and dates.
  • Grammar Check — English language grammar checker helps ensure that you don’t make errors in grammar.
  • Research Assistant — View context-sensitive documentation as you code, automatically suggested to you in a heads-up display. The assistant provides relevant information, including API overviews, source code references, APIs, and more.

If you’re thinking that calling some of these features “intelligent” is pushing it — and that it should rather be referred to as automatic — then I have a question for you: where does automation end and intelligence begin? Do many stupid, automatic things make something intelligent? No? Then how do you explain the neurons in your brain giving rise to your thoughts?

I’m not going to convince you that automation is intelligence, but I am going to entice you to consider the blurred line between the two.

Why Apple Doesn’t Use the Term “AI”

Ironically, if you do a search for “Leopard A.I.”, one of the articles that’ll come up is an interview with Steve Wozniak where he claims the following:

[Modern robots] do one thing well, but we never will see a robot that makes a cup of coffee, never. I don’t believe we will ever see it. [...]

Think of the steps that a human being has to do to make a cup of coffee and you have covered basically 10, 20 years of your lifetime just to learn it. [...] You can’t program these things, you have to learn it, and you have to watch how other people make coffee. … This is a kind of logic that the human brain does just to make a cup of coffee. We will never ever have artificial intelligence. Your pet, for example, your pet is smarter than any computer.

A picture of Wozniak, blatantly devised to emphasize my opinion of his AI predictions“Never ever“? Well I never. Regular readers of Think Artificial can guess what my opinion is. I think Wozniak is off; there’s no reason at all to think we can’t continue to improve learning software (evidence is to the contrary). But I’m not going to debate that here, there’s another reason I quoted this article.

Did anything strike you as odd regarding how Wozniak refers to artificial intelligence? He says, and I requote: “We will never ever have artificial intelligence“. That’s right. He’s saying we don’t have it today.

(Artificial Intelligence is Controversial)

This a problem for modern AI products: the term’s meaning is convoluted and controversial amongst the public. People generally don’t know the details of formal AI science. When abrubtly asked to explain what AI means, most people will immediately think of conscious, self aware machines and disregard everything else.

As such, any company that dares use the term AI to describe their products must answer for it in the fiery pits of public hype and consequent disappointment. Mention your product having AI and you’ve increased the risk of bad reviews due to people’s high expectations. (Unless you do a superior job explaining what you mean, which costs more money). The only industry that regularly pulls off using the term AI for marketing is the gaming industry, which is largely due to people expecting such software to play intelligently — not actually be intelligently.

A View Askew

So that’s why Apple doesn’t mention AI: The term is surrounded by hype which makes using it not worth the marketing effort. Instead they use more neutral words such as, for example, “data detectors” or “dynamic web filtering”. Words that won’t make people think the operating system was cast in a giant metal machine and sent back in time to kill their unborn son.

Does this matter for AI development? Not necessarily. Marketing and AI R&D are separate things, and Hollywood inspired definitions of AI are bound to receive a pounding as intelligent machines become more prevalent in society and everyday lives.


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10 Comments, Comment or Ping

  1. Vignir Hafsteinsson

    “So that’s why Apple doesn’t mention AI: The term is surrounded by hype which makes using it not worth the marketing effort. Instead they use more neutral words such as, for example, “data detectors” or “dynamic web filtering”. Words that won’t make people think the operating system was cast in a giant metal machine and sent back in time to kill their unborn son.

    I love that quote! I shall steal it in the future.

  2. Hrafn

    Cool. Feel free! :)

  3. I love that quote too. But the post in general is great as well. I’m not sure Terminator is the first thing that would come to mind reading AI, but you’re right, the term seems to be unclear to and often misused by many. No doubt the film AI has something to do with that.

    Now, I need to get Leopard of course so I get to see this in action. Another great post though.

  4. I’m thinking, too, that the Steven Spielberg movie had to do with the negative and tragic connotation the common public has come to associate with AI. ;) By the way, Hrafn, until this post I thought I was just gonna be alright doing w/o Leopard. Now I might just have to get it. Sigh.

  5. Man, Nils and I are on the same track. Unfortunately I only read his comment after I had submitted mine. Apologies, Nils. All I can offer about that is, “Great minds..?”

  6. Hrafn

    I love that quote too. But the post in general is great as well. I’m not sure Terminator is the first thing that would come to mind reading AI, but you’re right, the term seems to be unclear to and often misused by many.

    Thanks Nils. Well, in my experience techsavvy people generally think twice before ol’ Arnold springs to mind, but thoughts of war/dark implications are definitely there.

    By the way, Hrafn, until this post I thought I was just gonna be alright doing w/o Leopard. Now I might just have to get it. Sigh.

    Haha. Just don’t bill me!

  7. Hi Hrafn,

    I am searching for more info on Spotlight using Artificial Intelligence. But, I couldn’t find any article or manual either from the Apple Home site or from the Net. Closest thing about Spotlight and AI that I came across was this article. Kindly provide me more links or source material for getting more information about the way Spotlight uses AI to deliver the results.

    Thanks a lot,
    KN

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