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Why Apple’s Photos announcement should offend you

Steven Max Patterson | June 16, 2016
Apple’s research secrecy hurts industry and academic research, and it could hurt Apple.

Apple would have been careful to make its machine learning non-infringing, though, because if found responsible in court of violating the open source licenses of these projects, it might be ordered to publish its code.

Apple’s secrecy hinders innovation

Apple’s clandestine approach to R&D impairs its ability to innovate. It is impossible to imagine Apple creating a project like Google’s Tango that lets computers see 3D space like humans. After two less-than-perfect prototypes, Tango has been improved and reduced in size through open collaboration, and Lenovo designed it into one of their latest Phablets. R&D openness attracts developers and researchers that contribute their software and their experience. Open innovation also exposes the best job candidates based on their contributions.

Apple boosts its R&D with free research, saving millions of dollars. But it should pay for it by contributing its research back to the community, not just for the good of the community but for the good of Apple. 

Recruiting is just one of many examples that could be cited for why Apple should open up. Consider a top newly minted AI PhD candidate considering a machine learning job at Apple, Google or Facebook. He or she could debate the offers from Google and Facebook equally. But Apple would be a distant third choice because it would mean the candidate would have to limit his or her relationship with the worldwide AI research community.

 

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