Siri, Apple, Apple Speakers

Apple seems to be doing an Uber, when it comes to losing employees, Just yesterday, it was discovered that the company had lost its chief chip architect to Google and now, the company’s head of natural language understanding has been hired by Facebook.

Rushin Shah, who heads Apple’s natural language understanding group and is a senior machine learning manager, has left the company to join Facebook’s applied machine learning team. Shah will be working on natural language and dialog understanding at the social networking giant — something which should come naturally to him considering that his team was responsible for Apple’s Siri push.

Apple will be hard pressed to find a replacement quickly. The company is at a crucial stage with regards to Siri and its other natural language products and Shah’s absence leaves a gap that must be plugged quickly. The company is in the middle of rolling out major updates to Siri with its iOS 11 platform. It recently also released the Home Pod, the company’s take on Home speakers.

And Apple doesn’t really have room to falter. Alexa, Google Assistant, and Cortana are only some of Siri’s heavyweight, and highly capable competitors. Indeed, Apple is somewhat lagging behind when it comes to virtual assistants and there are several features that Siri needs in order to go head to head with some of its competitors.

Facebook stands to benefit with this acquisition. While the company doesn’t have a ‘virtual assistant’ of its own, it does have a lot of products that could do very well with a dash of machine learning. Chatbots for instance. And Shah’s skills with data are likely to come in handy as well. With its billions of users, Facebook generates a heck of a lot of data. And I am sure the company is already investigating ways in which that data can be made to profit the company.

With Facebook, Shah will be working to implement elements of machine learning into the social networking platform’s products. he will be based out of the company’s main, Menlo Park headquarters. Shah had also worked to implement machine learning models at Apple and had worked with various processes including a natural language runtime system, deployment pipelines and data mining — as such, he is certain to prove a real asset to Facebook.

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