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Exclusive: Apple testing new Siri natural language generating features starting with latest tvOS update

Apple is testing new natural language generation features for Siri, 9to5Mac has learned. Codenamed “Bobcat,” this new technology is being tested starting with the latest tvOS 16.4 beta and will eventually make its way to the rest of Apple’s operating systems. Still, Apple is currently focused on using this technology to improve Siri.

How Apple is testing language-generating features for Siri

In the latest tvOS 16.4 beta, Apple has enabled a new framework for “Siri Natural Language Generation” capabilities. As it currently stands, Apple is only using natural language generation for telling jokes with Siri on Apple TV. The company is experimenting with how language generation could be used for timers, as well.

Even though tvOS is what powers the Apple TV and HomePod, these new language-generating features are only currently enabled on the Apple TV. Findings by 9to5Mac, however, indicate that the code for these features is included across iPhone, iPad, Mac, HomePod, and Apple TV. It’s just not currently enabled on anything other than Apple TV.

The New York Times reported on Wednesday that Apple engineers are testing “language-generating concepts.” Our findings corroborate that report and offer additional details on how Apple is testing those capabilities.

There’s one important thing to keep in mind: Just because Apple is testing natural language generation features for Siri, that doesn’t mean it’s developing anything akin to chatbots like ChatGPT. Instead, Apple can use this sort of artificial intelligence technology to significantly improve the existing Siri assistant. Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman has also said Apple is not actively working on anything akin to ChatGPT.

Currently, Siri is powered by a system that’s based on templates, rather than any sort of language-generating artificial intelligence. As yesterday’s report noted, this has led to significant engineering and scaling challenges for Siri over the last decade.

There’s no timeline on when Apple will expand its current natural language generation technology beyond Apple TV. This is essentially Apple’s way of quietly and slowly beta-testing its first foray into this sort of AI technology. These features could also have a server-side component enabling or disabling the feature, allowing Apple to fine-tune testing in public.

Eventually, Apple could expand this language-generating technology beyond Siri, but that’s not something coming in the immediate future.

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Avatar for Chance Miller Chance Miller

Chance is an editor for the entire 9to5 network and covers the latest Apple news for 9to5Mac.

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