Apple has stayed true to its promise and published its first academic paper on artificial intelligence.
The world’s most valuable company has traditionally kept its AI research private but earlier this month Ruslan Salakhutdinov, director of AI research at Apple, made a pledge to start being more open.
The new Apple paper – published December 22 and titled “Learning from simulated and unsupervised images through adversarial training” – gives an insight into some of the techniques that Apple is using to develop AI.
In the study, which was published through the Cornell University Library, Apple researchers explain a technique that can be used to improve how an algorithm learns to “see” what is in an image.
The paper’s six authors state that using synthetic images (such as those seen in a video game), as opposed to real-world images, can be more efficient when it comes to training AI models known as neural networks, which are designed to think in the same way as the human brain. Why? Because synthetic image data is already labelled and annotated while real-world images aren’t.
However, using synthetic images has its problems. The Apple researchers write that they are “often not realistic enough, leading the network to learn details only present in synthetic images” and adding that they “fail to generalise well on real images.”
In order to get around this issue, the researchers propose using a technique they call “Simulated+Unsupervised learning,” which combines unlabelled real image data with annotated synthetic images.
The paper’s lead author was Apple researcher Ashish Shrivastava. Other authors include Tomas Pfister, Oncel Tuzel, Josh Susskind, Wenda Wang, and Russ Webb.
Apple’s software can already identify people’s faces in photos but the company and its rivals now stand to benefit by programming machines to learn how to identify places, animals, brands, and other things.
Apple’s paper comes after Facebook’s head of AI Yann LeCun said that Apple’s reluctance to let researchers publish their work could be hindering its hiring efforts in the highly competitive field where Google, Amazon, and DeepMind are also looking to recruit the best talent.
Describing how Facebook gets the most talented software engineers in the world to come and work on Facebook’s AI efforts, LeCun said: “Offering researchers the possibility of doing open research, which is publishing their work.
“In fact, at FAIR [Facebook Artificial Intelligence Research], it’s not just a possibility, it’s a requirement,” he said in London. “So, [when] you’re a researcher, you assume that you’re going to publish your work. It’s very important for a scientist because the currency of the career as a scientist is the intellectual impact. So you can’t tell people ‘come work for us but you can’t tell people what you’re doing’ because you basically ruin their career. That’s a big element.”
Jack Clark, who writes the Import AI newsletter, wrote in his latest email: “Apple’s participation in the AI community will help it hire more AI researchers, while benefiting the broader AI community.”
It’s likely that majority of Apple’s AI research takes place at its headquarters in Cupertino but the iPhone maker also has a number of satellite AI outposts around the world, including a secret Siri lab in Cambridge, UK.
Apple did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.