Apple has added yet another artificial intelligence and machine learning company to its roster of acquisitions. This time, it’s a relatively small startup called Lattice — which has developed a system that could Siri much more intelligent and capable, and could ultimately give Apple’s AI initiatives an edge over its competitors.
Cupertino quietly bought the startup a few weeks ago for around $200 million, a source familiar with the acquisition told TechCrunch. About 20 engineers from Lattice have since joined Apple’s larger AI and machine learning efforts. Lattice was born out of a Stanford research project called DeepDive, which created a framework for what the company calls “statistical inference” — that is, solving issues with data cleaning, extraction and integration.
What Does Lattice’s Technology Do?
Put simply, it takes unstructured and unusable information called “dark data” and organizes it so it can actually be analyzed and read. Dark data, which can anything from text to images, accounts for about 70 to 80 percent of the data across cyberspace — but it doesn’t do systems or software any good when it’s unstructured. Dark data is basically a massive pool of information without labels or categories, making it impossible to analyze and sort from an AI and machine learning perspective. Because of this, dark data could be a currently untouched gold mine of information if made accessible, as it hasn’t really been touched by other tech giants such as Facebook and Google, Inverse reported.
If this unorganized data can be made structured and readable, it opens up a lot of doors — and could see applications ranging from fighting human trafficking to assisting in medical genetics research. On a more practical and consumer-facing level, accessing dark data could potentially give digital assistants such as Siri a much wider range of commands. Rather than just being able to access neatly structured data such as the weather, or your favorite football team’s scores, Lattice’s system could allow Siri and other AI to find much more obscure pieces of information. And it could ultimately make AI systems and digital assistants much smarter by training them to use more useful and expansive data feeds.
Of course, it’s not currently clear how Apple is planning on using Lattice’s technology — but there’s a good chance that it involves Apple’s latest AI efforts and endeavors. According to TechCrunch, Lattice itself has been “talking to other tech companies about enhancing their AI assistants,” and Apple’s acquisition might give them a head start over competitors like Amazon, Google and Samsung when it comes to dark data parsing.