ChatGPT on Apple Watch? There’s an app for that…

While we wait for the inevitable cracks in the code to expose themselves, generative AI is all the rage in technology with implications for every business. Now you can even get ChatGPT on your Apple Watch.

ChatGPT on your wrist?

The watchGPT Apple Watch app is not made by Apple and costs $3.99. Once installed, you can use natural language or typing to ask it questions, which it will answer with results coming from the web. The app is also capable of creating longer messages, poetry, or even sick notes on your behalf.

It has its own complication, which means you can add a little button to the watch face to ask questions. You can also text, email or use social media to share those reactions; the developer promises that no data will leave the device and that a series of updates for the app are being worked on.

Generative AI seems to have turned the industry upside down. Microsoft has bet big on the technology, Google has accelerated its existing work on Bard, others want to join in, and many are now trying to develop their own take on this form of AI. DuckDuckGo even put OpenAI into its search engine, while Slack put ChatGPT into its own service.

OpenAI Doesn’t Sleep and announced even more new APIs for its ChatGPT and Whisper products this month. Whisper is used by the MacWhisper transcription app that I recently raved about.

Does Apple have an answer?

Apple’s recent internal AI presentation reportedly had no answer for the technology Digitimes claiming its appearance is prompting a rethink within the company’s own AI teams. That may be true, but the company does have some key advantages, such as the on-processor Neural Engine it can use. Apple’s AI chief apparently told engineers gathered at Apple’s own AI event, “Machine learning is moving faster than ever, and the talent we have here is really ahead of the curve.”

It is true that Apple has found really effective ways to deploy AI within critical vertical applications, such as accessibility, photography or health, but in other sectors it has not achieved so much: Siri, despite its early start, has clearly lost the voice assistant wars, unless Apple knows something we don’t.

It could be.

Humane Inc, a startup founded by ex-Apple employees, is working with OpenAI on some form of augmented wearable device. “An integrated device and cloud platform that allows us and others to create AI-driven experiences that feel natural, fun, and necessary,” explains Humane CTO and ex-Apple alumni Patrick Gates.

Since we think this is the kind of offering Apple wants to build with its forthcoming Reality One AR glasses system, one can’t help but wonder if the company has a plan to leverage the massive horde of search intelligence it’s already amassed to Spotlight to help deliver search results.

Perhaps so, but as of now, Apple’s machine intelligence teams don’t seem to be wearing the crown. Perhaps you don’t need to, given that you can already download and install Siri Shortcuts that let you use Siri as the front-end and ChatGPT to send the responses. I’m confident that Apple’s AI teams will take a close look at these kinds of implementations, as well as explore their own possible paths.

The risk of progress

There are risks to this proliferation. I recently saw US Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt) speak in London. He cautioned that while discussions about applied AI claim employment will emerge, he still expects significant turmoil in job markets.

The social impact will be huge, Sanders warns, and while there is an opportunity to reinvent work and support lifelong learning, the willingness to go down that path remains slim. There may be a chance that AI can help provide some pathways to retraining. Sanders is not an outlier in this expectation. (Even Apple’s former senior director of AI and machine learning has issued such warnings.)

Elsewhere on the political spectrum, former OpenAI co-founder Elon Musk recently told attendees at the World Government Summit in Dubai, “One of the biggest risks to the future of civilization is AI.” He believes that AI should therefore be regulated.

Of course, with multiple companies pooling their AI efforts around OpenAI’s technology, there is a danger that the answers it generates will eventually become homogeneous, which in itself could pose a risk to creative thinking and diversity.

The increasingly understood need to balance AI with human empathy and creativity inevitably means that these core skills will lead businesses through the digital transformation and become the most sought-after qualities for the future of work.

While digital twins and cobots (collaborative robots) may be part of the rapidly emerging future, in many cases human workers will train their robot replacements.

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