Apple has made a major move into the AI space with its new Ferret model, silently released in October 2023.
As AI chatbots like ChatGPT grab headlines, Apple’s secretive Ferret project aims to help the tech giant catch up to rivals in conversational AI.
And it must do so. Apple is far behind. Officially.
Overview of Apple’s Ferret AI
Ferret represents Apple’s first major generative AI model. Publicly at least.
While details remain scarce, early reports indicate Ferret has impressive skills, especially regarding spatial relationships and object recognition in images. This could allow more natural voice interactions via Siri.
However, Ferret still lags behind leaders like OpenAI’s ChatGPT in key areas like eloquence, knowledge breadth, and human-like conversational abilities.
But as a first attempt, Ferret shows promise that Apple can rapidly improve thanks to its vast resources.
Integrating it into Apple’s walled garden ecosystem could be a competitive advantage.
Ferret vs. ChatGPT: A Head-to-Head Comparison
ChatGPT has drawn immense popularity as the leading conversational AI, but benchmark tests reveal Ferret already exceeds ChatGPT in some areas despite its smaller size:
- Referring and grounding – Ferret uniquely excels at identifying and spatially relating to free-form objects in images, reducing hallucinations. ChatGPT struggles with this.
- Spatial awareness – Ferret’s specialized visual encoder allows localized, detailed representations of image regions. ChatGPT relies on global brute force attention.
- Apple expertise – As expected, Ferret offers detailed, tailored answers about Apple products. ChatGPT has wider general knowledge.
- Ethics – Ferret seems slightly better at recognizing its limits, rejecting inappropriate content. But both have concerning failures.
However, ChatGPT still leads in key language proficiencies:
- Eloquence – ChatGPT generally generates smooth prose, although not as lyrical as Claude.ai in my experience.. Ferret responses remain robotic.
- Knowledge – ChatGPT’s extensive training enables broad, competent knowledge. Ferret’s scope is far narrower.
- Human-like conversation – ChatGPT exhibits creative abstraction akin to human discussions. Ferret focuses on functional answers.
Implications for Apple’s Strategy and Products
Apple Ferret highlights a major strategic shift toward compact, specialized models rather than massive generalized AI. This aligns with Apple’s mobile-focused ecosystem. Specifically, Apple Ferret could soon enhance:
- Siri – More contextual, spatially-aware abilities could drastically improve Siri’s utility by 2024.
- Camera & Photos – Advanced referring and grounding will enable new creative features.
- Health – Users may consult Ferret for personalized health guidance as an AI companion.
- New mobile apps – Ferret lays the groundwork for innovative mobile experiences with conversational AI.
While OpenAI led early conversational AI, Apple has a track record of perfecting emerging technologies.
Ferret suggests Apple is gearing up for a major AI push across its products, with the potential to eventually surpass current leaders.
But rapid open-source innovations ensure stiff competition ahead.
The Bottom Line
Apple’s foray into generative AI may mark a historic shift for the company.
While Ferret is only the first step, Apple’s vast resources almost guarantee swift progress in coming years.
AI experts and consumers alike will be closely monitoring Apple’s AI capabilities as Ferret and future models integrate across Apple’s ecosystem.
The AI race is on.