The AI of Small Things Apple aims to simplify minor tasks with machine learning.

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Apple watch with countdown

Some tech companies boast that their AI will change the world. Apple’s latest just aims to make your life a little easier.

What’s new: Apple unveiled a flock of modest conveniences powered by machine learning at its annual developer conference. The company barely mentioned AI, sidestepping the tech industry’s tendency to hype such products, noted The Verge.

All modern conveniences: The company previewed dozens of software updates to its operating systems over the course of a lengthy presentation. Many apply machine learning not as a panacea, but to save users a little trouble here and there.

  • Apple Watch will support Covid-safe hygiene by recognizing sounds and motions that go with washing hands and starting a 20-second timer. The device also will analyze vital signs to determine when the wearer is asleep.
  • iOS 14, the upcoming iPhone operating system update, will recognize common household sounds like crying infants, sirens, barking dogs, and ringing doorbells.
  • Homekit, the smart home software, will alert residents when people arrive at their front door, recognize familiar faces, and announce them by name.
  • The new Translation app will interpret various languages without an internet connection. It will detect the language spoken and translate conversations in real time.

Why it matters: Consumers are rightly skeptical of potentially problematic AI-driven capabilities like face recognition and social networks. Apple’s latest moves suggest that the technology has plenty of room to run in the form of humble features that simply save a little time and effort.

We’re thinking: We need visionaries who aim to transform the world, but there’s something to be said for focusing on what’s practical today. As Peter Thiel once observed, 140 characters are changing the today’s world more than flying cars.


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