Apple Hires Carnegie Mellon AI Academic to Push Machine Learning

Apple Hires Carnegie Mellon AI Academic to Push Machine Learning

October 17, 2016 — 1:23 PM EDT
  • Russ Salakhutdinov tweets he’s now a director of AI research
  • Apple has struggled to attract top AI talent due to secrecy

Apple Inc. hired a prominent artificial intelligence researcher from Carnegie Mellon University as it seeks to regain lost ground against competitors such as Google, Microsoft Corp. and Inc. in machine learning.

Russ Salakhutdinov tweeted on Monday that he’s joining the Cupertino, California-based company as a director of AI research, in addition to his role at the university. He posted a link to an Apple job application page seeking machine learning specialists.

Apple is seeking scientists with “experience in Deep Learning, Computer Vision, Machine Learning, Reinforcement Learning, Optimization, and/or Data Mining,” it said in the job listing.

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The iPhone maker has been on an acquisition spree to beef up its artificial intelligence capabilities over the past 12 months, buying at least a half-dozen startups including Seattle-based Turi Inc. Apple’s penchant for secrecy has burdened efforts to improve AI offerings and hire the best talent. That’s because researchers in the field like to publish their findings, something Apple has frowned upon in the past.

Machine learning has gained mounting importance for tech companies to improve their research and enable virtual assistants such as Siri to better anticipate and predict users’ needs. Siri is competing with the Google Assistant, Microsoft’s Cortana and Amazon’s Alexa to become the virtual assistant of choice and the access point for users seeking online services.

Salakhutdinov joined Carnegie Mellon, a respected AI research center, earlier this year after spells at the University of Toronto and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His research has been funded by Google, Microsoft and Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., among others, according to his personal website at the Pittsburgh-based university.

Salakhutdinov has published extensively on neural networks, a branch of AI critical for voice and image recognition technology, collaborating with top researchers from academia and Google parent Alphabet Inc.

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