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Apple Intelligence first reactions: from ‘pure slop’ to ‘excellent work’

Apple had been among the tech giants most conspicuously absent from — or at least, low-key about — the generative AI craze, at least until today.

At its annual Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC 2024) in Cupertino, California, the company unveiled its biggest push into generative AI so far: a new service called Apple Intelligence, which will offer a variety of features across Apple devices including Mac computers, iPhones, and iPads.

The service is not an app per se, rather, it is a set of features embedded within other popular apps, from web browser Safari (where you can summarize articles) to Mail (where it can rewrite and suggest grammar improvements) to Photos (auto generate photo albums on specific subjects and topics set to music based on a text prompt) to Messages (where it can create custom AI generated emoji and photos of your contacts, as well as event and group photos).

As with nearly all new Apple announcements of the company’s storied history, the Apple Intelligence announcement was watched by a large audience of tech workers and journalists, as well as creatives, and some notable entrepreneurs and executives from rival firms.

It also inspired a wide range of responses, from some interpreting the announcement as underwhelming or undermining of Apple’s reputation as a company where minimalistic and clean designs are prioritized, while others viewed it as one of, if not the best examples of generative AI done right. Here are some of the most interesting reactions I saw:

High praise from former rivals

Steven Sinofsky, the former president of the Windows Division at Microsoft and current board partner at Andreessen Horowitz, called Apple Intelligence “really excellent work.”

This is really excellent work. There is a ton that won’t show up for a long time, but that is precisely what Apple does so well.

— Steven Sinofsky (@stevesi) June 10, 2024

He also said he thought the idea of weaving Apple Intelligence through its various Apple-branded apps was “exactly right and even more so when combined with privacy/on device.”

Excellent. Today was super high on “vision” for Apple with tons of future tense. At the same time their strong point of view is abundantly clear. This is not just privacy and on device, but how they see integration at the platform level. The idea for example of building on top of…

— Steven Sinofsky (@stevesi) June 10, 2024

And, as if that wasn’t enough of a favorable review, Sinofsky also took the opportunity to ding Google and his own former employer Microsoft in comparison to Apple’s approach:

The contrast between what Apple is showing and what Google and Microsoft have shown is a stark as ever. This is really important. Apple brings their point of view to the newest technologies, again.

— Steven Sinofsky (@stevesi) June 10, 2024

Similarly, Andrej Karpathy, an esteemed researcher who was previously director of artificial intelligence and Autopilot Vision at Tesla (where he competed with Apple’s abandoned self-driving car project) and a co-founder of OpenAI, said in a post on X that he found Apple Intelligence “super exciting.”

Actually, really liked the Apple Intelligence announcement. It must be a very exciting time at Apple as they layer AI on top of the entire OS. A few of the major themes.

Step 1 Multimodal I/O. Enable text/audio/image/video capability, both read and write. These are the native…

— Andrej Karpathy (@karpathy) June 10, 2024

Double standard?

Bilawal Sidhu, host of the TED Talks AI Show and a former Google Maps AR/VR engineer, wrote a lengthy post on X comparing how Apple Intelligence leverages personal data on the device in which it operates, as well as virtual private clouds, to serve up AI responses — a tack that he saw as similar to Microsoft’s new Recall feature for Windows Copilot + PCs that faced intense backlash from some users and researchers for possible data security risks. Microsoft Recall was, as of last week, disabled by default and now must be turned on by the user during setup.

Apple’s reality distortion field is strong. It’s kinda wild that with “semantic index,” Apple is basically doing what Microsoft wants to do with AI recall + Copilot, and without any of the big brother backlash.

Semantic index means all your private content (messages, emails,… https://t.co/dFNy7yTotv

— Bilawal Sidhu (@bilawalsidhu) June 10, 2024

AI images and Genmoji: love/hate?

One of the most immediately obvious use cases for Apple Intelligence for regular users is in its ability to create custom imagery and emoji based on their text prompts within Messages and other apps.

Open source software developer and AI influencer Simon Willison took to his blog to commend Apple’s approach toward AI image generation, writing:

“This feels like a clever way to address some of the ethical objections people have to this specific category of AI tool:

  1. If you can’t create photorealistic images, you can’t generate deepfakes or offensive photos of people
  2. By having obvious visual styles you ensure that AI generated images are instantly recognizable as such, without watermarks or similar
  3. Avoiding the ability to clone specific artist’s styles further helps sidestep ethical issues about plagiarism and copyright infringement

The social implications of this are interesting too. Will people be more likely to share AI-generated images if there are no awkward questions or doubts about how they were created, and will that help it more become socially acceptable to use them?

Others criticized the look and feel of the cartoonish AI generated images in Messages:

As someone who spends 24 hours a day optimizing the fine-tuning of image models for everyday cases (such as this one), this was hard to watch. pic.twitter.com/W4oe46NXbZ

— Pietro Schirano (@skirano) June 10, 2024

some of the apple/AI integrations look potentially useful, but the image playground feature is pure AI slop. the “animation” style apple kept on showcasing looks horribly dated already. i imagine this will entertain older users but be an instant turn off for gen z pic.twitter.com/GhmuBOT2Jv

— James Vincent (@jjvincent) June 10, 2024

A third-party app killer

Various users pointed out that by integrating a number of AI features across its native apps, Apple was essentially killing third-party AI-powered apps and services that sought to offer similar functionality prior to the news today and the absence of Apple Intelligence.

Apps Apple sherlocked this WWDC

AllTrails

Soulver

1Password

Grammarly

Bitmoji

Bezel

Making mac apps, just mirror your phone lol

Rabbit R1

ChatGPT signups

did I miss any?

— Nick Dobos (@NickADobos) June 10, 2024

Questions about training data

Other users on X, including some visual artists and tech workers opposed to the practices of generative AI model providers training without express consent on vast swaths of artwork and creative work posted to the web, questioned exactly how Apple had trained its underlying Apple Intelligence AI models — the company mentioned both language and diffusion models in its keynote announcement — and on what specific data.

1/ Apple “Intelligence” is here and 0 questions of “where does the data come from?” to be seen in press.

APPLE is trying to shove a huge privacy risk and tech that screams scraped off the internet without consent to the public. So here’s a list of potential data sources ? pic.twitter.com/2WBzRSjsh3

— Karla Ortiz (@kortizart) June 10, 2024

Obviously impossible to know, but I suspect Steve Jobs would have been one of the few big tech CEOs to refuse to train generative AI on creators’ work without their permission. Disappointing to see Apple drop hints they’ve done just that (‘public web’, ‘can opt out’ etc.) https://t.co/v3AjXQvzXE

— Ed Newton-Rex (@ednewtonrex) June 10, 2024

One Apple executive present at WWDC told Axios’s Ina Fried that the models were trained on “data from the public web” combined with licensed, or paid, data.

Giannandrea says Apple’s llm was built in part using data from the public web and that publishers can opt out of, along with a wide range of licensed data. He doesn’t get more specific, though.

— Ina Fried (@inafried) June 10, 2024

AI is a feature not a product?

Apple’s choice to weave the Apple Intelligence service throughout its apps also had The Information founder and CEO Jessica Lessin musing that the approach was likely to be seen as influential.

The legacy of today’s Apple news will be that AI is a feature not a product.

— Jessica Lessin (@Jessicalessin) June 10, 2024

Clearly, a wide range of reactions and they’re still rolling in. What do you think about Apple Intelligence so far?

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