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Report: Apple to Consolidate AI Team in Austin

Apple is reportedly closing down a 121-person artificial intelligence (AI) team based in San Diego.

This group, called Data Operations Annotations, was informed last week that they would be relocating to Austin to merge with a similar team, Bloomberg News reported Sunday (Jan. 15), citing people familiar with the matter.

These sources say Apple told workers they have until the end of next month to decide if they want to move. If they choose not to relocate, they’ll lose their jobs April 26.

According to Bloomberg, the team is responsible for enhancing Apple’s Siri listening to user queries gauging whether the voice assistant heard and handled questions accurately. 

PYMNTS examined the rise of voice AI in a report last month, noting that voice is one of “the more effortless ways” for users to interact with AI, with 86 million American consumers now using voice assistants each month.

“But effortless doesn’t equate to flawless, and there are still some kinks to work out around voice AI beyond just conversational realism, including concerns about privacy, security, and the ethical use of voice data,” that report said.

“[When voice AI first started,] consumers wanted to have those sci-fi-style, open-ended conversations [with robots], and many were disappointed because the tools at that time could only play music, set timers, tell you the weather,” Keyvan Mohajer, co-founder and CEO of conversational intelligence platform SoundHound, said in an interview with PYMNTS. 

He added that these limited “utility occasions” had the negative side effect of leading consumers to reduce their expectations for voice AI applications.

PYMNTS Intelligence shows that 63% of consumers would use voice technology if it were as capable as a person. In addition, 58% would use voice if it were easier and more convenient than doing tasks manually, and 54% reported that they would also use it because it is faster than typing or using a touchscreen.

Meanwhile, the threat of job cuts at Apple is happening as several other prominent companies — GoogleAmazonCitigroup among them — have also announced layoff plans.

As noted here last week, the emergence of AI is playing a role in some of these cuts, as this technology can perform tasks typically handled by white-collar workers, leading companies to divert funds toward its development.