Apple buys machine-learning startup to improve data used in Siri

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(Bloomberg) -- Apple Inc. bought machine-learning startup Inductiv Inc., adding to more than a dozen AI-related acquisitions by the technology giant in the past few years.

The engineering team from Waterloo, Ontario-based Inductiv joined Apple in recent weeks to work on Siri, machine learning and data science. Apple confirmed the deal, saying it “buys smaller technology companies from time to time and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans.”

Inductiv developed technology that uses artificial intelligence to automate the task of identifying and correcting errors in data. Having clean data is important for machine learning, a popular and powerful type of AI that helps software improve with less human intervention.

The work falls under the category of data science, a key element of Apple’s broader machine-learning strategy. In 2018, the company brought on several engineers from Silicon Valley Data Science, a consulting firm that focuses on this field.

John Giannandrea, the Apple executive in charge of Siri and machine learning, has been upgrading the underlying technology that goes into the Siri digital assistant and other AI-powered products from the company.

Inductiv was co-founded by machine-learning professors from Stanford University, the University of Waterloo and the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

The professor from Stanford, Christopher Ré, previously co-founded another AI company, Lattice Data, that was bought by Apple in 2017. It’s unclear if Ré, or the other Inductiv co-founders, Theodoros Rekatsinas and Ihab Ilyas, have joined Apple.

Apple has bought several other AI and data companies in recent years, including Xnor.ai, Tuplejump, Laserlike, Turi and Perceptio.

This year, the company bought Voysis to boost speech recognition in Siri, virtual-reality startup NextVR, and the popular iPhone weather app Dark Sky.

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