Apple could make Siri smarter and funnier with a ChatGPT-style AI update

Siri is Apple’s in-built voice-command system (Omid Armin on Unsplash)
Siri is Apple’s in-built voice-command system (Omid Armin on Unsplash)

Fuelled by the boom in AI chatbots, Apple is reportedly testing new ChatGPT-style features for Siri.

The overlooked digital assistant is poised to receive natural language-generation skills that could make it a lot more useful. Apple has already enabled new features on Apple TV, the company’s streaming box, which allow Siri to tell jokes using AI enhancements, and possibly set timers, according to 9to5Mac.

While the tvOS 16.4 beta update is currently only available to developers, the public will be able to try it out soon by signing up to Apple’s beta software program.

The move could mark the start of a major revamp for Siri across Apple’s kit as the code for the new AI features is also apparently included across iPhone, iPad, Mac, HomePod, and Apple TV. Although Siri can already make quips and set timers, natural-language features would essentially allow the digital helper to be more creative and collaborative.

OpenAI’s ChatGPT, for instance, can write essays, songs, poems, and hold conversations. The latest version of the bot, GPT-4, can also recognise images - a feature that could theoretically allow it to suggest meal ideas based on a photo of the inside of your fridge.

Unlike ChatGPT, which can only respond with text, Siri is a voice-controlled personal assistant that you talk to on Apple devices. Broadly speaking, Siri can read your last email, text or call your mate, find a table at a London restaurant, and play your fave song on Apple Music.

Apple is testing a more powerful Siri with AI language skills on its Apple TV box (Apple)
Apple is testing a more powerful Siri with AI language skills on its Apple TV box (Apple)

Apple customers have been clamouring for a smarter Siri for years, but the digital assistant has been largely overshadowed by rivals including Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. Now, chatbots pose an even bigger threat to those tools, with a raft of companies incorporating them into their existing apps and services, including Snapchat, Slack, and Microsoft.

But, Siri could get a new lease on life. The New York Times recently reported that Apple engineers have been “testing language-generating concepts every week”.

In February, it was revealed that Apple is set to triple its data centre capacity this year as it looks to add more power to its facilities. All that extra juice could be used to provide data-hungry products, such as a ChatGPT rival or Apple search engine.

However, Apple has not officially confirmed the existence of such a chatbot. It’s also important to note that a Siri upgrade doesn’t necessarily mean that it will magically transform into a ChatGPT-style bot.

Nevertheless, in practical terms, natural-language generation skills could help Siri complete a wider range of tasks, and make it more fun to use in the process. Currently, Siri can only grasp a finite number of topics, and reportedly has a “clunky” backend system that previously made it harder to add new features.

Still, Apple will have to move fast to catch up with the competition. Microsoft, which has invested $10 billion (£8.2 billion) in OpenAI, is already using GPT-4 to power its Bing chatbot. Google is also testing its Bard chatbot with employees, and already boasts an image-recognition tool called Lens.

Perhaps Apple is afraid of unleasing the tech on the public before it’s ready. After all, Google and Microsoft’s chatbots have both shown that they can get things wrong. The tech suffers from what is known as hallucinations - the name used when chatbots make stuff up.

Now, imagine those sorts of slip-ups occurring on the two billion Apple devices that are currently active worldwide, and you can see why Apple is being cautious about the tech world’s new obsession.