Apple has another tool to help make Siri smarter thanks to its recent purchase of Lattice Data. The company specializes in artificial intelligence and dark data, which ultimately could turn out to be as cool as it sounds.
Sources speaking with TechCrunch spilled the beans on the deal, which reportedly cost Apple around US$200 million. Apple offered up its usual noncommittal confirmation saying, “Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans.”
The technology Lattice Data created aids with artificial intelligence by finding the structure in dark data, or data that otherwise doesn’t seem connected. This is something human brains do all the time, but it’s a monumental task for computers.
The purchase offers up some intriguing potential for Apple’s artificial intelligence voice assistant Siri. Lattice Data’s system uses machine learning to put those seemingly unrelated text snippets, images, and other bits of data into an orderly structure computers can use. That could ultimately make Siri smarter and more capable of anticipating our needs and responding appropriately.
Lattice Data was born in 2015 out of research conducted at Standford by Christopher Ré, Michael Cafarella, Raphael Hoffmann, and Feng Niu. They’re building on Stanford’s DeepDive project to give computers the means to sort through the unstructured, or “dark,” data that makes up about 80 percent of what’s stored today.
Once that data is cataloged in meaningful way, it becomes information that can be processed and analyzed. For Siri, that translates to a more responsive system, but it goes beyond that. The structuring Lattice Data has been working on could be used for health and medical research, criminal investigations, and scientific studies.
Apple’s Lattice Data purchase follows the 2016 acquisition of the machine learning companies turi and Tuplejump. The three together paint a pretty clear picture of Apple’s plans: Siri is destined to be more than just an internet search tool and interface for turning on our lights with our voice. It’s also going to be more than Amazon’s Alexa that merely parses specific trigger words to perform tasks.
Apple wants to make Siri truly smart, and buying companies like Turi and Tuplejump, and now Lattice Data, are a part of that plan. We may see some of Apple’s efforts soon as the in-home voice appliance battle heats up, and maybe Siri will finally be in a position to be our digital best friend.