No joke: Apple is testing voice AI for gags on the Apple TV

If you ask your Apple TV for a joke and use a current beta version of tvOS, you could be in for a big surprise these days and actually hear a good joke: Apple is said to be testing new skills for the voice assistant Siri. Corresponding observations have now been substantiated by code finds from an Apple blog. However, Siri with natural language abilities is apparently only experienced by randomly selected testers of a new operating system version.

The news that Apple is apparently already implementing a concrete voice AI project has surprised the experts in the past few days after some media reports to the contrary. An internal AI summit in Cupertino was awaited with great excitement a few weeks ago, but no immediate reaction to the success of ChatGPT and other AI solutions was expected. Meanwhile, the New York Times spoke to a former Apple employee who helped develop Siri a few years ago. He indicated that the software would be very difficult to develop in a different direction.

The Apple news blog 9to5Mac is now reporting that the current beta version of tvOS 16.4 already contains an improvement to Siri, with which Apple is testing the creation of natural language with artificial intelligence. A new framework was designed under the code name Bobcat, which – according to 9to5Mac – is probably already prepared for use on iPhone, iPad, Mac and HomePod, but has not yet been released there. Apparently, Apple has the ability to turn the module on and off on the server side.

At the moment, however, the improved Siri only comes into action when telling jokes. Apple is apparently also working on improving the setting of timers as a test. It is not clear whether an introduction is planned soon or whether Apple simply wants to carry out some live tests.

The operating software of the Apple TV is actually a good hiding place for testing new functions: New software versions rarely contain a larger list of new functions and accordingly receive far less attention in the specialist media than the iPhone, Apple Watch and Mac. In addition, Apple TVs such as HomePod and Apple Watch, which are primarily controlled via Siri Remote, would benefit most from a better voice interface.

According to 9to5Mac, those interested should not expect anything on par with ChatGPT. However, a much more flexible speech recognition would be a big step forward. Siri is currently template-based, which means that users ideally speak to the assistant in the way the developers thought it would. The system also appears to be rather inflexible when it comes to the feedback and, when asked, explains that it cannot help or that the user can search for it on the web. That could change with the use of an AI.

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