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Apple's 'Ask' project may be far more than just an AI-assisted support tool

Apple is working on AI tools

A report that revealed Apple's "Ask" tool may not have been the whole story, with a leaker exclusively telling AppleInsider that the project goes beyond a simple language learning model or generative AI tool.

Sparse details about a new tool called "Ask" being tested by Apple employees surfaced on February 23. Since then, we've obtained more information about the project.

On late Sunday, a leaker reached out to AppleInsider with a bit more information on the Apple "Ask" tool. The leaker claims that "Ask" is "not a LLM or other generative AI like some think."

The leaker leans into this, saying that because the support knowledge database, and the front-end to that database for support members, are constantly evolving, it needs to be far more than that. They go on to say that it is intended to be an advanced natural language search engine, to assist support users.

Despite spending all of Monday and a good part of the overnight into Tuesday trying to breach Apple's wall of secrecy around the project, we obviously can't absolutely confirm the provenance of the information, and we were not provided a means to ask amplifying questions.

Efforts to get more information continue, because the technology at its core seems like an obvious addition to a future series of OS releases. Should we get more information on Tuesday or Wednesday, we will update this article accordingly.

What is Apple Ask?

Apple launched a pilot program that provides select AppleCare support advisers an AI tool called "Ask." It is a tool that automatically generates responses to technical questions based on information from Apple's internal database.

Unlike a simple search tool, which returns the same results every time based on relevance, the "Ask" program generates an answer based on specifics mentioned in the query, like device type or operating system. Advisors can mark these answers as "helpful" or "unhelpful."

Given that as of late, chatbots have started feeding from other chatbots, they tend to make things up with high confidence. This is called "hallucination" — and is obviously bad for Apple employees providing help for consumers.

The "Ask" tool attempts to avoid this behavior by being trained only on its internal database with additional checks that ensure responses are "factual, traceable, and useful."

There's a good chance this leaked "Ask" tool either is or is based on the previously leaked "Ajax." It is an internal tool that some allegedly referred to as "AppleGPT."

Tim Cook directly said that Apple was working on AI tools for likely release at some point in 2024. Even though nothing has been announced, the company is likely working on and testing many tools that rely on generative models similar to how ChatGPT operates.

Apple's push into AI and what it might mean for iOS 18 has yet to be made clear. WWDC in June will likely have details.