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Apple’s Machines Can Learn Too

Amid the new features unveiled at Apple’s annual developer conference were some that demonstrated the company is making progress on artificial intelligence. It was an important rebuttal for critics of the company’s ability to compete in advanced software with the likes of Google, Facebook or Microsoft.

One little-noticed but important Apple disclosure came from software executive Craig Federighi about Siri, the company’s voice-activated assistant. He revealed that for the next version of Apple’s device software, Siri would be powered in part by long short-term memory, or LSTM, which would improve its capabilities to remember things. Among other things, LSTM will be deployed to Apple services such as “QuickType,” which suggests possible responses to messages people receive on Apple’s iMessage. Mr. Federighi’s demo conversation with Siri on a Mac laptop appeared to highlight the benefit of LSTM techniques because the system remembered the prior question he had asked.

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LSTM technology, part of the machine learning branch known as deep learning or neural networks, allows a system to remember things—a conversation happening within a messaging app, for instance—for a longer period of time.