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Apple has poached dozens of Google AI experts for its Zurich lab


Apple's Zurich Vision Lab has moved on from the Apple Car and has been poaching Google staff to work on the future of Apple's AI products.

In 2017, AppleInsider reported on the existence of what's believed to be called the Zurich Vision Lab, an Apple Research facility in Switzerland. It was then understood to be concentrating on the now-defunct Apple Car project.

By 2023 the facility was believed to be looking at all future Apple projects, including AI.

Now according to the Financial Times, the facility is concentrating on AI, and as part of that has been steadily poaching Google staff. This started in 2018 with the very public hiring of John Giannandrea, previously Google's chief of AI and search.

Tuesday's report says that he has since been followed by at least 36 other Google AI experts. The publication based this on a study of LinkedIn profiles, plus job postings and research papers.

Specifically, Apple has reportedly been recruiting for staff in generative AI across two locations in Zurich. One of the two unnamed locations is reported to be so low profile that the Financial Times says a neighbor was unaware of the office's existence.

Even before Giannandrea joined, the publication says that Apple was employing AI staff. It quotes Chuck Wooters, an expert in conversational AI and LLMs who worked on Siri for 21 months from 2013.

"During the time that I was there," he said, "one of the pushes that was happening in the Siri group was to move to a neural architecture for speech recognition."

"Even back then, before large language models took off," he continued, "they were huge advocates of neural networks."

The report concentrates on how Apple has this Zurich facility, but that has been known for seven years. It then connects that to how Apple has been recruiting from Google, and recent Apple research papers have been led by ex-Google staff.

What the publication does not do is put those ex-Google employees into context. It isn't clear, for instance, what proportion of the Zurich Vision Lab staff are from Google.

That said, what is clear is that yet again, these employees and that Zurich facility demonstrate that Apple is not behind the industry in AI.