Siri: Apple is on a hiring spree to make its digital assistant smarter

Apple appears to be focusing in a big way on Siri, evidenced by a major hiring spree aimed at enhancing its oftcriticized digital assistant.

According to data-tracker firm Thinknum, the tech giant has recently ramped up efforts to expand its team of Siri engineers, culminating in a posting one day last week that listed 161 Siri-related positions.

Apple launched its digital assistant for the iPhone in 2011 before taking it to other Apple products, including the iPad, Mac computers, AirPods, and the recently launched HomePod smart speaker. But Siri’s limited skill set — especially when compared to Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant — and occasional inability to understand spoken instructions has left some users frustrated, an annoyance brought to the fore with the recently launched HomePod, which places Siri front and center.

Apple clearly hopes to fix all that with an injection of new engineers.

Hiring spike

Thinknum’s Joshua Fruhlinger pointed out that the number of Siri-related positions posted by Apple has accelerated in recent weeks, with a jump occurring in the first half of February.

“The hiring trend has been on an upward trajectory since summer 2016, but only recently did the openings spike so acutely,” Fruhlinger noted in a blog post.

Of the 161 positions, 125 are at Apple’s HQ in Cupertino, while 10 will be based in Cambridge, England. The rest are divided among San Francisco and Seattle, with four in Shanghai, and one in each of several cities, including Ottawa, Tokyo, Beijing, Singapore, Munich, and Madrid.

The vast majority — 154 to be precise — are for software engineers, with the others focusing on Siri design and product management.

“It’s easy to see that this is a concerted effort by Apple to make Siri smart, or at least, smarter than she has been,” Fruhlinger writes. He adds that while the other assistants are regularly receiving new skills, “Siri is still struggling to take notes and turn off lights. When Apple released the long-awaited HomePod, critics praised the speaker’s sound quality but unanimously called it crippled by Siri’s lack of smarts.”

News of Apple’s hiring spree comes just weeks after Forbes reported on how Amazon is hiring a whopping 1,147 people to work on Alexa, “more than Google is hiring for product and technical roles across the entire Alphabet conglomerate, including YouTube, Waymo, Google Fiber, and — of course — the main money maker in the Alphabet empire: the original Google,” Forbes said.

Provided Apple can attract the talent and fill all the posts that it’s advertising, hopefully Siri users won’t have to wait too long to see some concrete improvements with Apple’s digital assistant.

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