Apple's 'Ask' project may be far more than just an AI-assisted support tool

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware edited February 27

A report that revealed Apple's "Ask" tool may not have been the whole story, with a leaker exclusively telling AppleInsider that the project goes beyond a simple language learning model or generative AI tool.

An image showing the Siri icon and ChatGPT icon combined.
Apple is working on AI tools



Sparse details about a new tool called "Ask" being tested by Apple employees surfaced on February 23. Since then, we've obtained more information about the project.

On late Sunday, a leaker reached out to AppleInsider with a bit more information on the Apple "Ask" tool. The leaker claims that "Ask" is "not a LLM or other generative AI like some think."

The leaker leans into this, saying that because the support knowledge database, and the front-end to that database for support members, are constantly evolving, it needs to be far more than that. They go on to say that it is intended to be an advanced natural language search engine, to assist support users.

Despite spending all of Monday and a good part of the overnight into Tuesday trying to breach Apple's wall of secrecy around the project, we obviously can't absolutely confirm the provenance of the information, and we were not provided a means to ask amplifying questions.

Efforts to get more information continue, because the technology at its core seems like an obvious addition to a future series of OS releases. Should we get more information on Tuesday or Wednesday, we will update this article accordingly.

What is Apple Ask?



Apple launched a pilot program that provides select AppleCare support advisers an AI tool called "Ask." It is a tool that automatically generates responses to technical questions based on information from Apple's internal database.

Unlike a simple search tool, which returns the same results every time based on relevance, the "Ask" program generates an answer based on specifics mentioned in the query, like device type or operating system. Advisors can mark these answers as "helpful" or "unhelpful."

Given that as of late, chatbots have started feeding from other chatbots, they tend to make things up with high confidence. This is called "hallucination" -- and is obviously bad for Apple employees providing help for consumers.

The "Ask" tool attempts to avoid this behavior by being trained only on its internal database with additional checks that ensure responses are "factual, traceable, and useful."

There's a good chance this leaked "Ask" tool either is or is based on the previously leaked "Ajax." It is an internal tool that some allegedly referred to as "AppleGPT."

Tim Cook directly said that Apple was working on AI tools for likely release at some point in 2024. Even though nothing has been announced, the company is likely working on and testing many tools that rely on generative models similar to how ChatGPT operates.

Apple's push into AI and what it might mean for iOS 18 has yet to be made clear. WWDC in June will likely have details.

Rumor Score: Possible

Read on AppleInsider

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 15
    What Apple is advertising with their Generative AI is nothing more than what Google Pixel phones or S24 already have, which is already dedicated Machine Learning hardware and ML models that run on the phone s to do things like real time transcribing, image recognition etc.
    These are not LLMs nor comparable to what ChatGPT has already brought out.

    As LLM usage is quite limited in terms of their capacities and storages running on the phone, this function is just limited to AppleCare (all necessary data for AppleCare can be handled with their chip capacitiy). 

    At the end, something interesting and exciting (if!) only for AppleCare customers. 
    edited February 27 williamlondon
  • Reply 2 of 15
    eriamjheriamjh Posts: 1,642member
    An intelligent help system for the obscure errors or just plain illogically buried features in iOS and MacOs would be great but that isn’t going to help Apple sell phones or Macs.  

    They need a useful productive AI tool.   Smarter Siri.  Smarter searching.  Smarter interaction.  

    Smarter voice recognition.   I’d rather have a tool ask me to clarify something than make a guess of what I said and have it be wrong.  

    Set a timer for 15 minutes. 
    “Did you say 15 minutes or 50 minutes?”
    The first.
    ”ok”

    Or notice that I usually as for 15 and decide based on past history and typical times and when I usually ask.  

    If Apple rolls out an awesome AI tool and tells everyone, maybe it will help their stock price.  
    dewmebyronlwilliamlondon
  • Reply 3 of 15
    Apple has had a distinct vision for an “intelligent agent” going back to 1987. It was called “Knowledge Navigator”. The technology has advanced to the point where this concept may soon become reality. 
    ronn9secondkox2steveau
  • Reply 4 of 15
    avon b7avon b7 Posts: 7,661member
    There is an incredible amount of help related information just begging to be wrapped up in an 'intelligent' user friendly way.

    Even the most mundane things like 'how much will it cost to change the battery on this phone?' and then get instant, up-to-date pricing, turnaround times in-store or shipping options etc for your nearest geographical options. 


  • Reply 5 of 15
    What Apple is advertising with their Generative AI is nothing more than what Google Pixel phones or S24 already have, which is already dedicated Machine Learning hardware and ML models that run on the phone s to do things like real time transcribing, image recognition etc.
    These are not LLMs nor comparable to what ChatGPT has already brought out.

    As LLM usage is quite limited in terms of their capacities and storages running on the phone, this function is just limited to AppleCare (all necessary data for AppleCare can be handled with their chip capacitiy). 

    At the end, something interesting and exciting (if!) only for AppleCare customers. 
    Which is a perfectly limited use case for getting a model like this off the ground on iPhone. Easy to test, and I bet most of the data was already tagged in a beneficial way for learning. The other models already running on iPhone since a few years are a bit harder to get right, like the Moments, image tagging and object/person/pet recognition in Photos, etc.
  • Reply 6 of 15
    thttht Posts: 5,437member
    I think this sort of thing is a great feature add. When you "ask" a search engine for how to change my car head light or how to do anything, the results are ad infested web pages that aggravate more than help. Just search for a cooking recipe or iPhone setting help or whatnot. It's terrible the quality of web pages you get.

    I've pondered whether I can get a text only web browser for such things. Too bad Lynx died or has not been brought onto the modern age. It would be blocked all over the place, and probably prove useless.
  • Reply 7 of 15
    I personally am getting more and more terrified of how AI is going to be weaponized. Additionally, every non-tech person I talk to has WAY less enthusiasm for it than these AI articles would have you believe. It appears Apple is being cautious and deliberate in its development and deployment of their AI which I am 1000% for. Give the people something within the ecosystem that is safe, useful, non-nefarious and easy to use (ie. all the news in your Apple News feed can be AI checked so you know it's not completely fake). It's going to be very troubling dAIys outside the walled garden so please give us a feeling (and hopefully also a reality) of safety inside it. 
    thtdanox
  • Reply 8 of 15
    danoxdanox Posts: 2,840member
    What Apple is advertising with their Generative AI is nothing more than what Google Pixel phones or S24 already have, which is already dedicated Machine Learning hardware and ML models that run on the phone s to do things like real time transcribing, image recognition etc.
    These are not LLMs nor comparable to what ChatGPT has already brought out.

    As LLM usage is quite limited in terms of their capacities and storages running on the phone, this function is just limited to AppleCare (all necessary data for AppleCare can be handled with their chip capacitiy). 

    At the end, something interesting and exciting (if!) only for AppleCare customers. 

    Apple and Google, Samsung, Meta, Microsoft are on two different paths when it comes to data usage one is implemented on the device, the other is implemented somewhere in the cloud neither is wrong they’re just different, but which one do you think will sell the one that works right away on the device or the one that you have to stand there and look like an idiot waiting for it (the data) to come back to your phone/computer/tablet?

    And it is no surprise everything on the Google Pixel 8 Pro, or the Samsung S24 needs to phone home to elicit a response because of the deep mind? By phoning home the tensor (me too) processor which happens to be weaker than the 11 Pro iPhone with a bad modem to boot is not progress, the modem which is probably equivalent to what Apple can build today in house but wisely choose not to release.

    Another thing, that’s interesting is that every time Tim Cook is asked the question, Tim briefly explains just a little of what Apple is doing and because doesn’t line up with what everyone else is doing the media and the Wall Street analyst‘s eyes glaze over every time. 

    Because Apple is essentially the only large vertical computer left from the bygone era, whatever Apples solution is it won’t be a Microsoft, Meta or Google solution, and that is reflected in the products that they make currently today that are used by the general public, that question and answer session is probably the media fishing to see if Apple is going to follow along with everyone else’s solutions in AI, in short, they want to be reassured that Apple is a part of the new AI hype, with the rest, and are not venturing outside somewhere else be it in Game Engines, GPU’s, Servers, or Modems. Although they are already executing on two of those items now as far as we know officially.

    The tech companies that are currently announcing/hinting at AI projects, are announcing software/server based projects far removed from the public (in short almost impossible to pin down their value ie…Gemini). 

    Most are not executing anything concrete they are just taking advantage of the so-called AI wave to ride their stock up with a little PR hot air, long term execution is the only thing that counts.

    AI on the edge is Apples path and it is no surprise Google, Meta, Samsung and Microsoft want to phone home to Mama that’s the only path a non vertical computer companies can take.

    edited February 27 williamlondon
  • Reply 9 of 15
    entropysentropys Posts: 4,162member
    What Apple is advertising with their Generative AI is nothing more than what Google Pixel phones or S24 already have, which is already dedicated Machine Learning hardware and ML models that run on the phone s to do things like real time transcribing, image recognition etc.
    These are not LLMs nor comparable to what ChatGPT has already brought out.

    Over the last few years, A and M series SOCs all have ML modules a lot more capable than the SOCs from Google and Samsung.  I agree that what a lot is being labelled as AI is in reality just ML.
    Google and Samsung of course phone home to do a lot of the ML processing, while Apple strives to do it on device.

    it does seem however that the current AI focus seems to have caught Tim Apple and his fellow execs a tad off guard. 
    steveauwilliamlondon
  • Reply 10 of 15
    macbootx said:
    Apple has had a distinct vision for an “intelligent agent” going back to 1987. It was called “Knowledge Navigator”. The technology has advanced to the point where this concept may soon become reality. 
    They released lots of great Knowledge Navigator videos at the time. A few (but not all that I remember) can be found on YouTube. 
  • Reply 11 of 15
    I normally love to dislike microsoft a lot of what they start, ends up being unfinished and rough. I am very surprised at how well its AI copilot works in the edge browser. If you type your question in the browser, it will type it back to you, but if you audibly ask it, then it will speak the answer back to you while displaying at the same time and also show links to where it got the information from. This doesn’t seem like artificial intelligence as much as smarter searching. I wish that Siri could do the same thing.  I know that usually is late to the party, but also usually has a better offering when they finally come out with a feature. This new Ask program should just be a brain implant for Siri. No need to come up with a new name and make Siri irrelevant. 
  • Reply 12 of 15
    danoxdanox Posts: 2,840member
    I normally love to dislike microsoft a lot of what they start, ends up being unfinished and rough. I am very surprised at how well its AI copilot works in the edge browser. If you type your question in the browser, it will type it back to you, but if you audibly ask it, then it will speak the answer back to you while displaying at the same time and also show links to where it got the information from. This doesn’t seem like artificial intelligence as much as smarter searching. I wish that Siri could do the same thing.  I know that usually is late to the party, but also usually has a better offering when they finally come out with a feature. This new Ask program should just be a brain implant for Siri. No need to come up with a new name and make Siri irrelevant. 
    What more important for Microsoft long term getting Windows to work on Arm (mobile and desktop) like it does on Intel/AMD cpu's or playing around on the remote AI cloud hype? I know which I would choose.
    edited February 28 williamlondon
  • Reply 13 of 15
    mattinozmattinoz Posts: 2,313member
    I wonder if "Ask" can access crash logs to help tune its response to troubleshooting? 

    williamlondon
  • Reply 14 of 15
    danvmdanvm Posts: 1,409member
    danox said:
    What Apple is advertising with their Generative AI is nothing more than what Google Pixel phones or S24 already have, which is already dedicated Machine Learning hardware and ML models that run on the phone s to do things like real time transcribing, image recognition etc.
    These are not LLMs nor comparable to what ChatGPT has already brought out.

    As LLM usage is quite limited in terms of their capacities and storages running on the phone, this function is just limited to AppleCare (all necessary data for AppleCare can be handled with their chip capacitiy). 

    At the end, something interesting and exciting (if!) only for AppleCare customers. 

    Apple and Google, Samsung, Meta, Microsoft are on two different paths when it comes to data usage one is implemented on the device, the other is implemented somewhere in the cloud neither is wrong they’re just different, but which one do you think will sell the one that works right away on the device or the one that you have to stand there and look like an idiot waiting for it (the data) to come back to your phone/computer/tablet?

    And it is no surprise everything on the Google Pixel 8 Pro, or the Samsung S24 needs to phone home to elicit a response because of the deep mind? By phoning home the tensor (me too) processor which happens to be weaker than the 11 Pro iPhone with a bad modem to boot is not progress, the modem which is probably equivalent to what Apple can build today in house but wisely choose not to release.

    Another thing, that’s interesting is that every time Tim Cook is asked the question, Tim briefly explains just a little of what Apple is doing and because doesn’t line up with what everyone else is doing the media and the Wall Street analyst‘s eyes glaze over every time. 

    Because Apple is essentially the only large vertical computer left from the bygone era, whatever Apples solution is it won’t be a Microsoft, Meta or Google solution, and that is reflected in the products that they make currently today that are used by the general public, that question and answer session is probably the media fishing to see if Apple is going to follow along with everyone else’s solutions in AI, in short, they want to be reassured that Apple is a part of the new AI hype, with the rest, and are not venturing outside somewhere else be it in Game Engines, GPU’s, Servers, or Modems. Although they are already executing on two of those items now as far as we know officially.

    The tech companies that are currently announcing/hinting at AI projects, are announcing software/server based projects far removed from the public (in short almost impossible to pin down their value ie…Gemini). 

    Most are not executing anything concrete they are just taking advantage of the so-called AI wave to ride their stock up with a little PR hot air, long term execution is the only thing that counts.

    AI on the edge is Apples path and it is no surprise Google, Meta, Samsung and Microsoft want to phone home to Mama that’s the only path a non vertical computer companies can take.

    It's obvious that Apple won't "phone home" since they don't have datacenters or infrastructure as companies like Google, Meta and Microsoft have.  These companies have been investing for years in AI infrastructure, while Apple is starting now,

    iOS 18: AI Server Industry Aiming to Win Business From Apple | MacRumors Forums

    Looks like AI on the edge is not enough to compete with AI leaders as MS / OpenAI, Google and Meta.  
  • Reply 15 of 15
    danvmdanvm Posts: 1,409member
    danox said:
    I normally love to dislike microsoft a lot of what they start, ends up being unfinished and rough. I am very surprised at how well its AI copilot works in the edge browser. If you type your question in the browser, it will type it back to you, but if you audibly ask it, then it will speak the answer back to you while displaying at the same time and also show links to where it got the information from. This doesn’t seem like artificial intelligence as much as smarter searching. I wish that Siri could do the same thing.  I know that usually is late to the party, but also usually has a better offering when they finally come out with a feature. This new Ask program should just be a brain implant for Siri. No need to come up with a new name and make Siri irrelevant. 
    What more important for Microsoft long term getting Windows to work on Arm (mobile and desktop) like it does on Intel/AMD cpu's or playing around on the remote AI cloud hype? I know which I would choose.
    If  you ask me, both are important. And looks they are investing and improving quickly in both cases. 
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