iRobot: Apple hints at AI future after posting positive financial results

James Pearce
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Apple CEO Tim Cook told investors autonomy is the "mother of all AI" and revealed the iPhone-maker is involved in a "large" AI project during investor call

Apple could be looking at wider uses for its artificial intelligence research beyond the connected car – at least according to hints from CEO Tim Cook during the smartphone giant’s recent earnings call.

It is an open secret within the industry that Apple has been investing time and money into self-driving vechicles – the Califronian firm was recently granted a license to test vehicles on the roads of Silicon Valley – but Cook explained that is only one use case it is interested in for AI systems.

“[Autonomous] systems can be used in a variety of ways,” Cook said during a call with investors following Apple’s latest financial results. “A vehicle is only one, but there are many different areas of it. And I don’t want to go any further with that.

“We are very focused on autonomous systems. We do have a large project going, and are making a big investment in this. From our point of view, autonomy is sort of the mother of all AI projects.”

Cook’s words have led to speculation that Apple could be developing an autonomous assistant for smart homes – ie a robot – that could help clean and secure the home.

Apple has been looking at other markets it can operate in to expand its main revenue drivers beyond the iPhone, which made up $24 billion of Apple’s $45 billion revenue in Q3 2017 – 53% of Apple’s sales. The next highest revenue-generating segment in Apple’s results was “services”, which is made up of things like iTunes and the App Store, which generated $7.2 billion of sales.

Though Apple shifted 41 million iPhone units in the three months ending June 30, up 2% on the previous year, growth the smartphone market began to slow last year, according to IDC. On top of that, it has been more than a decade since Apple first launched the iPhone.

It is due to unveil the next edition of the handset in September, although rumours claimed manufacturing problems could lead to a delay in the device going on sale. This appears to have been scotched by guidance forecasts for Apple’s upcoming quarter, which were above analyst expectations.

“With revenue up 7 percent year-over-year, we’re happy to report our third consecutive quarter of accelerating growth and an all-time quarterly record for Services revenue,” Cook added.